Tractor Supply Company – Pesticides and Pollinator Decline (2018)
Outcome: Withdrawn after company committed to disclose actions to remove products containing bee harming pesticides, and other practices to safeguard pollinator health in its 2018 Stewardship Report.
Tractor Supply states in its 2016 Corporate Stewardship Report that it “not only invests in initiatives to reduce its own environmental footprint, but also promotes sustainable living to its customers.”
Tractor Supply currently sells products containing neonicotinoids (“neonics”), a class of systemic pesticide linked to dangerous declines in pollinators and other beneficial organisms, and negative impacts to land and water (International Union for Conservation of Nature; United States Geological Survey).
Multi-year double digit declines in pollinators in the United States and Europe pose significant risks to our food systems. “Bee-pollinated commodities account for $20 billion in annual United States agricultural production and $217 billion worldwide.” (United States Department of Agriculture)
Scientists believe key factors in these pollinator population declines include wide-scale use of neonics and disappearing foraging areas for pollinators. An analysis of 800 peer-reviewed studies released by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, a group of global, independent scientists, concluded that neonicotinoids pose a serious risk of harm to pollinators including honeybees and butterflies. Birds and earthworms are also at risk.
In December 2013, the European Union enacted a two year ban on three neonics. In June 2014, the White House established a “Pollinator Health Task Force” charged with “understanding, preventing and recovering from pollinator losses.” In July 2014, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans to restrict neonic use across the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Farms and backyard gardens maintained by Tractor Supply customers may provide important safe havens for pollinators. Proponents believe the typical farm or garden owner shopping at Tractor Supply would want a property that is healthy for songbirds and pollinators, including honeybees. These customers may choose to shop elsewhere:
• In 2015, Lowes announced a phase out of the sale of products containing neonics, to be completed by the Spring of 2019, as suitable alternatives become available.
• Home Depot announced that it has removed neonicotinoid pesticides from 80 percent of its flowering plants and has a goal to complete its phase-out in plants by 2018. Customers can search shelf products containing neonics and alternate products on its website.
Tractor Supply publishes ‘know how’ advice for boosting pollination in backyard gardens but does not disclose information in its sustainability policies and practices related to how it is addressing this important public concern.
RESOLVED: Shareholders request that by September 1, 2018, the Governance Committee of the Board of Directors conduct a risk assessment of Tractor Supply’s environmental protection policies and practices to determine whether the Company’s current practices regarding the sale of neonicotinoid-containing products are in the best interests of the company, its consumers and its shareholders, and to recommend any changes to policy or practice the Committee deems to be appropriate. The results of this assessment should be published in Tractor Supply’s next Social Responsibility report, at reasonable expense and omitting proprietary information.