July 25, 2014
Resolutions Target GMO Labeling and Extended Producer Responsibility at Safeway
by Robert Kropp
The annual general meeting of the supermarket chain was dominated by merger talks, but health and
environmental resolutions filed by Green Century and As You Sow were considered as well.
The annual general meeting (AGM) of the supermarket chain Safeway was held in Pleasanton, CA,
earlier today, and as expected the major topic for shareowner consideration was the company's
proposed merger with Albertson's. According to management, 70% of the outstanding shares and 96% of the shares
voted approved the merger.
Two resolutions filed by sustainable investment
organizations were voted down by the company's shareowners, management reported, but support for
both were strong enough for them to be returned to the proxy ballot next year. And from the
perspective of social and environmental justice, the issues raised by the two resolutions are
likely to remain relevant long after two grocery stores become one.
requesting the labeling of products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), filed by Green Century Capital Management, received about 10% of
shareowner votes, Safeway reported in its preliminary count (the official tally will be reported on
the company's Form 8-K). Before the resolution was voted on, the company's board was presented with
a petition from US Public Interest Research Group, signed by 130,000 consumers, calling for the
labeling of GMOs.
Polls show that over 90% of Americans want food products containing GMOs
to be labeled.
“Transparency is absolutely critical for earning and maintaining consumer
trust, particularly when it comes to issues like food quality and safety,” Lucia von Reusner,
Shareholder Advocate for Green Century, said. “Shareholders have reason to be concerned if Safeway
is unwilling to provide the transparent food labeling called for by over 90% of U.S. consumers.”
Bills or ballot initiatives calling for the labeling of products with GMOs have been
introduced in more than 20 states in the least year alone, Green Century reports, and initiatives
have been approved in Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont. Also, prominent companies including Whole
Foods, Chipotle, and Ben & Jerry’s have voluntarily agreed to disclose the presence of GMOs in
A second resolution, filed by As You
Sow, addresses the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). “Post-consumer packaging
and printed paper comprises nearly half of US landfill waste and is a significant consumer of
natural resources, energy and source of greenhouse gas emissions,” the resolution states. “The
estimated market value of wasted packaging that could be recycled is $11.4 billion.”
more than 40 nations have shifted all or most of the responsibility for post-consumer packaging to
producers, the US has not. The environmental and financial costs of wasted packaging are borne by
citizens and taxpayers instead.
“Adoption of EPR policies will incentivize producers to
reduce the amount of packaging they create, substantially increase recycling rates, provide much
needed revenue to improve efficiency of recycling systems, reduce carbon footprint and energy use,
and reclaim billions of dollars of embedded value now buried in landfills,” As You Sow has stated.
The organization is engaging with seven corporations on the issue this proxy season.
resolution at Safeway called on the company to issue a report “developing a policy position on the
company's responsibility for post-consumer product packaging of its private label brands, and
assessing whether alternative approaches could lead to substantially increased packaging
According to Safeway's preliminary count, 12% of its shareowners voted in
favor of As You Sow's resolution.