May 15, 2014
Shareowners Want Dunkin' Brands to Report on Nanomaterials
by Robert Kropp
A resolution from As You Sow, requesting that the company report on use of nanomaterials in its
doughnuts, is supported by 23% of shareowners.
Last year, As You Sow published
Slipping Through the Cracks, an issue brief on the use of nanomaterials in food products.
“Nanomaterials have not been proven safe for human consumption, and many have been found to be
toxic in animal studies and in vitro studies,” As You Sow reported.
the survey As You Sow sent to 2,500 corporations received only 26 responses, and many of the
respondents did not know if nanomaterials were present in their food products or supply chains.
“It is imperative that companies recognize the risks of using nanomaterials in their
products—including risks from lawsuits, reputational risk, and even bans on the technology,” the
issue brief stated. “To avoid these potential pitfalls, any movement toward use of nanomaterials in
food should be undertaken with deliberation, knowledge, comprehensive safety testing, and full
transparency to consumers and shareholders.”
Investors were advised to encourage companies
to adopt transparency in disclosing the use of nanomaterials, and to call for the labeling of food
and packaging that use them.
When companies are unwilling or unable to provide
transparency on issues relating to public health, shareowner resolutions often follow, and As You
Sow has been filing on the issue of nanomaterials since 2009. Resolutions filed in past years, with
McDonald's and Kraft Foods, were withdrawn.
The first such resolution came to a vote this
year, at Dunkin' Brands, where 23% of shareowners representing $547 million in assets under
management supported the As You Sow resolution calling on the company to report on the use of
titanium dioxide nanoparticles in its white powdered doughnuts.
A UCLA study found that
ingesting titanium dioxide nanoparticles causes genetic damage and inflammatory response in mice.
The resolution further called on Dunkin' Brands “to identify products or packaging that
currently contains nanomaterials, and discuss any actions management is taking to reduce or
eliminate risk associated with human health and environmental impacts.”
before it is proven safe exposes the company to the risk of future litigation, as well as consumer
backlash,” As You Sow President Danielle Fugere said.