Coca-Cola Company – BPA (2010)

Outcome: 25%

Coca-Cola is the world’s largest beverage company, selling 1.6 billion servings of beverages per day. A significant part of Coca-Cola’s business includes selling beverages in aluminum cans. Our company has developed a valuable premium brand based on the trust of consumers and our company’s market leadership.
Coca-Cola’s Product Safety Policy states that Coke uses “the highest standards and processes for ensuring consistent product safety and quality.” Yet, Coca-Cola’s canned beverages use linings containing Bisphenol A (BPA), a potentially hazardous chemical.
BPA has received media attention for its use in polycarbonate plastic bottles, which Coca-Cola does not use. However, BPA is also used in the epoxy lining of canned foods and beverages. BPA can leach out of these containers and into food and beverages, resulting in human exposures. BPA is known to mimic estrogen in the body; numerous animal studies link BPA, even at very low doses, to potential changes in brain structure, immune system, male and female reproductive systems, and changes in tissue associated with increased rates of breast cancer. Exposure to BPA by the very young, as well as pregnant women, are among the greatest concerns to experts.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association associated BPA with increased risk for human heart disease and diabetes. In January 2010, the US Food and Drug Administration reversed its stance on the safety of BPA, concluding that the agency has “some concern” about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children, and supports additional research. Most recently, Canada’s health and environmental agencies added BPA to its list of toxic chemicals.
Several food companies, including Hain Celestial, ConAgra, and H.J. Heinz are using BPA-free can linings for certain products, and have developed timelines to transition to BPA-free packaging across all products. In contrast, the Washington Post reported in May 2009 that Coca-Cola was involved in meetings to “devise a public relations and lobbying strategy to block government bans” of BPA in can linings.
The US Congress, as well as some US states and cities, have proposed legislation banning BPA in certain food and beverage packages. In addition to potential bans, proponents believe our company faces liability or reputational risks from defending and continuing to use BPA in cans. For instance, class action lawsuits against other companies already contend that manufacturers and retailers of BPA-containing products failed to adequately disclose BPA’s risks.
Shareholders request the Board of Directors to publish a report by September 1, 2011, at reasonable cost and excluding confidential information, updating investors on how the company is responding to the public policy challenges associated with BPA, including summarizing what the company is doing to maintain its position of leadership and public trust on this issue, the company’s role in adopting or encouraging development of alternatives to BPA in can linings, and any material risks to the company’s market share or reputation in staying the course with continued use of BPA.

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