Substantial 38.3% Support for Kroger Chemicals Resolution
Call for Report on Safer Chemicals Policies, Options
On June 26th, 38.3% of Kroger's voting shareholders supported a resolution calling on the company to publish a report on its policies and options for addressing emerging product safety issues. Proxy voting advisory services ISS/RiskMetrics and Proxy Governance recommended voting in favor of the resolution, which had been filed by Catholic Healthcare West.
The resolution specifically cited sharply escalating consumer concern and regulatory attention to: polycarbonate baby bottles containing the chemical Bisphenol-A(BPA); the chemical PFOA used to produce stain and grease resistant coatings for cookware and food packaging; polyvinyl chloride (PVC) used in products and packaging, the chemical PFOA used to produce stain and grease-resistant coatings for cookware and food packaging; and cosmetics and personal care products containing suspect chemicals.
The resolution noted other retailers' efforts to reduce customers' exposure to such chemicals. For example, retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target are phasing out PVC products and packaging. Wal-Mart and other retailers have announced plans to offer BPA-free baby bottles; Whole Foods Market removed such bottles from its shelves two years ago. More recently, CVS declared a corporate safe cosmetics policy. Retailer activism has become so pronounced that an April 2008 cover story in Chemical Week magazine was captioned "The New Regulators: Retailers and States Take the lead."
In its statement of opposition to the resolution, Kroger's board of directors stated its awareness of and respect for chemical concerns, but contended that "these matters are most appropriately addressed by informed legislators and regulators." In the view of the resolution filer, this is an overly complacent perspective. The filer responded, "Before deciding that complacency is an effective tactic, Kroger must consider the risks of inaction to the company, its consumers and the environment."