Social Awareness Shareholder Activism

The Shareholder Commons to Present Shareholder Proposal Asking McDonald’s to Disclose Systemic Costs of Antibiotics Use in Their Supply Chain

WILMINGTON, Del., May 5, 2021: The Shareholder Commons, a non-profit organization advocating for a systems-first approach by business and investors, will present a shareholder proposal at the McDonald’s annual shareholders meeting on May 20, 2021 asking the company to study and disclose the external environmental and public health costs created by the use of antibiotics in its meat supply chain.

The proposal is co-filed by Trinity College at the University of Cambridge and Amundi Asset Management, the largest asset manager in Europe by assets under management (€1.729 trillion).

The Shareholder Commons supported a similar shareholder proposal with Yum! Brands that was withdrawn on March 3, 2021 after the company committed to disclose the systemic costs of antibiotic use, making it the first public company to disclose its impacts on the global economy and the interests of diversified shareholders in protecting public health and well-being.

“While U.S. securities laws require companies to disclose matters that are material to their own financial performance, there is no requirement that companies report their impacts on people or planet,” said Frederick Alexander, CEO of The Shareholder Commons. “We are encouraged that Yum! recognized the importance of disclosing their impacts on public health and well-being. Now it’s time for McDonald’s to step up and also address this important systemic issue.”

Excessive use of antibiotics in raising animals for food—including in McDonald’s meat supply chains—contributes to antimicrobial resistance, or AMR, which threatens global health by reducing the effectiveness of antibiotic drugs. If current trends continue, humanity will experience a reversal of the public-health gains of the past century and the economic growth, development, and poverty reduction these gains enabled. According to studies by the World Bank and the UK government, AMR could cause up to 10 million deaths per year by 2050. In addition to this staggering loss of life, AMR may decrease global GDP 3% by 2030, and almost 4% by 2050, amounting to economic losses by 2050 of $54 trillion in today’s dollars. The issue is of such importance that the United Nations hosted a High-Level Interactive Dialogue on AMR in April.
“AMR is a complex challenge which requires collaborative action by governments, NGOs, and corporations,” said Professor Dame Sally Davies, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge University. “We were are all pleased to see Yum! take this important step in March, and would now like to see McDonald’s follow suit and join global best practices on AMR by aligning its supply chain with the needs of people and planet.”

Catherine Howarth, Chief Executive of ShareAction, said: “In light of the pandemic, investors are recognizing the critical role played by companies in shaping people’s health, including people to whom they owe a fiduciary duty of care. This shareholder proposal sends a clear message to McDonald’s and to its wider shareholder base about the systemic risks to health created by the abuse of antibiotics. We strongly recommend it to McDonald’s’ shareholders. It builds upon commitments made by the company on antibiotics in its chicken supply chain following shareholder activism in 2018 in which ShareAction was proud to play a coordinating role.”

The Shareholder Commons encourages McDonald’s to agree to many of the same steps that Yum! Brands committed to earlier in the year, including:

  • Incorporate a study of the system-wide costs of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) into its public sustainability reporting
  • Disclose its findings regarding how antibiotic use in animal husbandry threatens global health and well-being, as well as the global economy and diversified shareholder interests
  • Discuss an optimal, global scenario for the food industry to eliminate or internalize AMR costs and address competitive concerns that would make progress more difficult without such an approach
  • Describe how its policies and procedures—including those covering lobbying, political expenditures, and other forms of political influence—affect the realization of the global scenario

The Shareholder Commons is supporting multiple proponents in filing shareholder resolutions with a systems-first lens, seeking to ensure that corporations do not seek profits that depend on behavior that threatens social and environmental systems.

About the Shareholder Commons

The Shareholder Commons is an NGO helping investors work collectively to reduce the social and environmental costs that businesses create when competing for profits, using shareholder stewardship, thought leadership, and policy advocacy to catalyze systems-first investing and create a level playing field for sustainable competition. 

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