After years of abhorrent labor practices, environmental pollution, and cruelty to animals, investors and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)—a group of 300 shareholder advocates that calls on the world’s most powerful companies to address their impact on the world’s most vulnerable communities—are taking steps to hold animal agriculture behemoth Tyson Foods accountable. The ICCR and Tyson investors recently filed five shareholder resolutions urging the company to make significant animal welfare, environmental, and corporate improvements.
1. Stop polluting water. Tyson has paid millions of dollars in fines for violating federal Clear Water Act laws. It’s still under investigation by the EPA for releasing toxic pollutants into waterways. The impact on human health and marine and wildlife is incalculable but likely massive.
2. Disclose a plan to stop Tyson employees from torturing animals. Caught multiple times over the past decade abusing animals, Tyson has failed to implement measures to stop their employees from punching birds in the face, kicking them like footballs, and stomping on their heads. Shareholders argue Tyson’s failure to respond to the public’s desire for better treatment of animals or keep pace with their competitors puts shares at risk.
3. Increase diversity on the Tyson Board to include more women and minorities. Two-thirds of Tyson employees are minorities yet they only have one minority member on their Board. Such a homogeneous group may not be best suited to address the company’s horrific labor practices that include record workplace fatalities, safety violations, lawsuits for physical assault, threats, failure to pay overtime, and exploitation and harassment of immigrant workers.
4. Disclose lobbying practices. This resolution will add transparency to Tyson’s efforts to impact legislation that affects animals, human health, food safety, and the environment. It may also shine light on their contributions to the Center for Consumer Freedom, an organization they pay to discredit these organizations.
5. Identify the risks of the plant-based food market to Tyson’s business model. Shareholders want to know what Tyson plans on doing to remain competitive with the increasing demand for plant-based meat. Perhaps this resolution is the most promising as it could force Tyson to offer their own plant-based meats. While opponents might argue that buying such meat from Tyson would put more money in Tyson’s coffers, the reality is that millions of people know the Tyson name and they like the taste of Tyson brands. These consumers are more likely to buy a Tyson plant-based meat than a plant-based meat from a lesser known company. Their move into plant-based food could also push their competitors to do the same. Due to their financial strength, they could accomplish this task at low price points for consumers, a major driver of consumer purchasing decisions.
Shareholders will vote on these measures in early 2017. More updates on how you can hold Tyson Foods accountable coming soon.