In this era of social media, opinions can travel swiftly. With the rapid-fire communication of current issues, businesses need to stay abreast of public sentiment and be mindful of the actions they take.
Public awareness and opinions on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food supply has mounted over the last few years. A July 2013 NYT poll indicated that over 93% of Americans want transparent labeling of GMO’s products in their food- now. At last the companies that donate funds to oppose ballot initiatives requiring the labeling of products containing GMOs are facing new pressure from shareholders to stay out of future elections.
As mentioned in my previous blog, “Battleground I-522: what’s at stake and why now?”, big food and agribusiness have been pouring money into fighting the GMO labeling initiative in Washington State. In California last year, the labeling opponents outspent supporters with over $46-million. This onslaught of dollars led to the defeat of Prop-37. But the initiative did help raise consumer awareness of the issue on a national level.
As You Sow, the Green Century Equity Fund, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) are filing resolutions asking the top corporate donors who opposed the California GMO labeling ballot initiative to refrain from using corporate funds to influence political elections. Investors note that many of the companies that contributed to anti-Prop 37 measures experienced significant consumer backlash on social media sites and were the subject of consumer boycotts.
To date, As You Sow has filed resolutions at Monsanto, E. l. DuPont de Nemours, and Dow Chemical, and intends to file a shareholder resolution at General Mills and Abbott Laboratories, which combined gave over $17 million to defeat the CA labeling initiative. The Green Century Equity Fund plans to file at Kraft Foods Group, which gave $2 million, and Environmental Working Group plans to file at Coca-Cola and Pepsi, which combined donated $4.2 million. The top 50 corporate donors who supported the “No on 37” campaign in California will also receive a letter signed by 30 investors representing $11 billion in assets under management, urging the companies to stay out of elections on controversial public policy issues. You can read the full press release here.
Scott Faber, Vice President of Government Affairs at EWG said, “American consumers simply want the same rights as consumers in 64 other nations that require GMO labeling. Smart companies increasingly recognize that the real cost of lost brand reputation and consumer loyalty far outweighs the imaginary costs of labeling.” Faber is also the Executive Director of Just Label It, a national GMO labeling organization.
As consumers our voices are strong and we must tell these companies that we demand transparency in our food. Tell them we won’t buy their products if they continue to fund anti- labeling campaigns. The investor community is urging them to listen to consumers before their markets suffer.
To learn more about how to invest in environmentally responsible businesses contact Green Century Capital Management, an environmentally responsible investment advisory firm that manages two mutual funds, the fossil fuel free Balanced Fund and the Equity Fund, which invests in the longest running socially responsible index. Let your money and your mouth work together to make GMO labeling a reality.