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Company: Whole Foods Market
Subject: Endocrine Disruptors in Products
Year: 2006
Sector: Food Retail/Processing
Lead Filer: Green Century Capital Management
Outcome: Vote: 10%, company pulled products, issued policy

Whereas:

  • Whole Foods Markets Inc. (WFMI) is a leader in marketing of wholesome foods and nutritional products, including organic products that avoid the use of pesticides and other synthetic ingredients.
  • Whole Foods Quality Standards state that “We carry natural and organic products because we believe that food in its purest state — unadulterated by artificial additives, sweeteners, colorings, and preservatives — is the best tasting and most nutritious food available….”
  • Whole Foods has developed a valuable premium brand based on its faithful adherence to these high standards. Whole Foods customers and shareholders expect the company to provide leadership in product purity and to exercise the highest standards in ensuring that the products it sells do not contain harmful synthetic chemicals.
  • Several products in the marketplace contain chemicals that are known to interfere with hormone signaling and are likely to disrupt human development. One such chemical is Bisphenol A (BPA), which is used in large quantities in polycarbonate (hard plastic) products and can linings. WFMI sells products containing BPA.
  • Public health monitoring indicates that widespread human exposure to BPA and other endocrine disrupting substances is already at the range demonstrated to cause adverse effects in numerous animal studies. Effects of concern include changes in brain structure, the immune system, male and female reproductive systems, and changes in breast tissue associated with increased rates of breast cancer. Fetuses in utero and infants are at greatest risk of harm from these effects.
  • Whole Foods has expanded into the United Kingdom, where such major retail competitors as Marks & Spencer and Boots have developed safer alternatives policies. For example, Marks & Spencer’s “Chemicals Strategy” includes among other things, a supplier commitment to exploring alternatives. Boots avoids BPA “where suitable alternative materials are available”.


RESOLVED: Shareholders request that by February 2007, at reasonable cost and omitting proprietary information, the Board publish a report evaluating Company policies and procedures for systematically monitoring and reducing consumer and environmental exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals, including BPA, and persistent bioaccumulative toxics. The report should summarize the criteria used to evaluate such chemicals, and include options for systematically identifying toxics in stocked products, encouraging suppliers to reduce or eliminate such chemicals and develop safer alternatives, educating WFMI customers about toxics in products, and enhancing WFMI’s leadership reputation by routinely reporting on its progress.

Supporting Statement:

According to a recent report, safer alternatives policies such as those of Marks & Spencer and Boots have been adopted by leading consumer products manufacturers and retailers. Cutting edge innovative practices include inventorying chemicals in products using published lists and scientific research; establishing goals and milestones for action, even in the face of scientific uncertainty; providing inducements to suppliers to provide safer products; and publicly disclosing information to consumers and shareholders. Companies have adopted such practices to build public trust, protect brand reputation, and anticipate prospective regulation. Such actions by Whole Foods would underscore our company’s leadership role in providing safe, wholesome products.


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