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Jul 08, 2021

Kroger sees significant support for plastic packaging proposal

Latest such proposal to gain traction this proxy season

Approaching half of shareholders in The Kroger Company have voted for a proposal seeking a report on the supermarket operator’s plastic waste.

According to an SEC filing, 45.6 percent of votes cast at Kroger’s June 24 AGM backed a proposal brought by As You Sow asking the board to release a report by December 2021 on plastic packaging, ‘estimating the amount of plastics released to the environment by our use of plastic packaging, from the manufacture of plastic source materials, through disposal or recycling, and describing any company strategies or goals to reduce the use of plastic packaging to reduce these impacts.’

A supporting statement says the report should include an assessment of the ‘reputational, financial and operational risks associated with continuing to use substantial amounts of plastic packaging while plastic pollution grows unabated. In the board’s discretion, the report could also evaluate opportunities for dramatically reducing the amount of plastics used in our packaging through redesign or substitution.’

As You Sow writes in the proposal materials that more than 250 companies have committed to take action through the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Global Commitment to reduce plastic pollution. ‘Kroger is notably absent from this historic corporate co-ordination,’ the group states. ‘The company is one of the worst performing in packaging data transparency – lacking disclosure of key data such as tonnage of overall plastic used and the number of units of plastic packaging put into commerce.’

Kroger’s board urged shareholders to vote against the proposal. Writing in the company’s proxy statement, the board states: ‘As Kroger’s 2020 sustainability goals officially conclude, we are focused on the future and how our company can continue to create more positive outcomes for people and the planet. To shape our focus in the next decade, we have set multiple new commitments as well as extended existing commitments to shape our work.’

The board states that last year the company launched new 2030 sustainable packaging goals for all its products with the aim of ‘reducing packaging pollution, improving end-of-life management for packaging and driving demand for recycling through our material choices and customer engagement.’ It adds that it will report Kroger’s progress on its sustainability goals in its 2021 ESG report, and details steps taken last year and so far this year.

‘The results at Kroger demonstrate yet another strong show of support by investors this year challenging companies to elevate the issue of single-use plastic pollution and develop credible solutions to the global plastic pollution crisis now,’ Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president of As You Sow, says in a statement.

A spokesperson for Kroger did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this proxy season, 81 percent of votes cast by DuPont de Nemours shareholders backed another As You Sow proposal asking that company’s board to release a report each year disclosing ‘trends in the amount of plastic in various forms released to the environment by the company annually, and concisely assess the effectiveness of the company’s policies and actions to reduce the volume of the company’s plastic materials contaminating the environment.’

DuPont’s board had recommended shareholders vote against the proposal, arguing that ‘its adoption is unnecessary given the company’s robust sustainability policies and programs and is not in the best interests of the company and its stockholders.’

A DuPont spokesperson said in a statement at the time: ‘We can confirm that the proposal received support from a majority of the shares that were voted at the annual shareholder meeting. DuPont is committed to transparent reporting on sustainability and environmental matters, and annually issues a sustainability report.

‘We are taking action at our facilities to avoid pellet spills, increase plastic recycling and prevent plastic waste from entering the environment. The DuPont board will review the results of the vote on the proposal and will determine the appropriate next steps with respect to reporting.’


Ben Maiden

Ben Maiden is the editor-at-large of Governance Intelligence, an IR Media publication, having joined the company in December 2016. He is based in New York. Ben was previously managing editor of Compliance Reporter, covering regulatory and compliance...