US: PepsiCo urged to review HIV/AIDS pandemic
Investors are urging PepsiCo to review the economic effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the company's business.
A representative of MMA, the lead-filer in this resolution, will attend the PepsiCo annual meeting in Texas next week (5 May) to encourage shareholders to vote for a resolution that asks the company to analyse the economic impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on PepsiCo's current and future operations in Africa, China, India, and Russia.
"The economic fortunes of PepsiCo and of the people affected by the pandemic are tightly bound together," said Mark Regier, MMA stewardship investing services manager, who will speak at the meeting. "We believe HIV/AIDS is a critical social and economic issue facing the company, so we felt compelled to address it along with other shareholders."
Last year, 7.5% of shareholders supported the same resolution to increase reporting on PepsiCo's response to the HIV/AIDS threat, well above the legal requirement for returning the resolution a second year.
"We need to figure out how PepsiCo and other global corporate players can be a significant part of the solution on HIV/AIDS" said Sister Vicki Bergkamp of the Adorers Of The Blood of Christ of Wichita, Kan., the primary filer of a similar resolution at Coca-Cola. "Never have the moral and business cases for action been more closely aligned - this disease destroys lives, communities, and economies."
"When company workers, customers, and market stability are all at risk - so is shareholder value," said Gary Hawton, CEO of Meritas Mutual Funds, another filer in the resolution. "We believe it's in both the company and shareholders' best interest to implement a proactive approach. It's also the moral thing to do."
Meritas Mutual Funds and several co-sponsors of this resolution have been in discussions with PepsiCo representatives on the HIV/AIDS issue for two years.
The 2004 PepsiCo resolution states that 95% of the 42m people worldwide with HIV/AIDS live in developing countries. The resolution asks also for an impact analysis of tuberculosis, a leading killer of people with HIV/AIDS.
Hawton says shareholders need more information on how PepsiCo may be affected by HIV/AIDS and how the company could deal with its impact. "It's no longer just an issue of increasing charitable responses to a great human tragedy," he said. "It's about making a strategic plan to address the pandemic and preserve stability in the decade ahead. We have had general discussions with Pepsi for two years, but still need firm evidence that the company is planning to address this threat on this level."
The board of directors of its competitor, Coca-Cola, recently responded to an identical shareholder-backed resolution on HIV/AIDS by embracing the production of the report and encouraging their shareholders to embrace the resolution for the betterment of the company. This resolution will be voted on later this month.
"We would like to encourage other investors (both individuals and investment managers) to vote their shares with us on this important business and social matter," said Hawton. "We would also encourage mutual fund holders to contact their mutual fund company and ask how they intend to vote on this matter. We think that mutual fund companies should be willing to both publicise their vote on this resolution and to justify their response."
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