Coca-Cola is facing mounting pressure on bisphenol A (BPA) after 26 per cent of its shareholders called on the company to reveal its plans over the continued use of the chemical in its packaging.
But the beverage giant’s chief rejected the call made at the company’s annual general meeting yesterday - despite the fact that the motion received 20 per cent more support than when it was first proposed last year.
Muhtar Kent, CEO and chairman told shareholders the company did not believe there was sufficient scientific evidence to stop using BPA in the epoxy linings of its cans.
He added Coke had provided as much information as it could without divulging proprietary competitive data.
The resolution, put forward by a trio of shareholder advocacy groups, called on Coca-Cola chiefs to: “issue a report to their investors disclosing how it is responding to public concerns about the safety of BPA in products; outline a plan to develop alternatives to BPA in can linings; and address what the company is doing to maintain leadership and public trust on this issue”.
Michael Passoff, senior strategist for As You Sow, one of the shareholder groups, again labelled Coke an “industry laggard” warning this was “a bad message to send to investors”.
The resolution was supported by a number od shareholder heavyweights, including ISS and Glass Lewis – the US’ two largest proxy advisors - and institutional investors including the world's largest pension fund, CalPERS, said As You Sow.
The alliance, which also includes with Domini Social Investments and Trillium Asset Management Corporation, said its fears are based on the “financial and regulatory risk” that company could be exposing itself to by “ignoring recent advances in scientific research, newly stated regulatory agency reviews and concerns about BPA as a health risk, and the proposed federal legislative bills looking to ban BPA”.
Can linings safe, says Coke
But Coca-Cola said it backs the consensus among regulatory agencies across the globe that BPA in epoxy linings does not pose a human health risk.
"If we had any sliver of doubt about the safety of our packaging, we would not continue to use (BPA),” Kent said at the annual meeting in Atlanta yesterday. “It’s that simple.”
A company statement on its website said: “We are working with third-parties that produce can liners to explore possibilities that include alternatives to liners with BPA. Currently, the only commercially viable lining systems for the mass production of aluminium beverage cans contain BPA.”
It added: “We take our consumers' concerns seriously, and we want them to know we are confident in the safety of all of our beverages' packaging.”