ABHMS urges Tyson Foods shareholders to adopt water-stewardship policy

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 2/4/16)—Continuing its commitment to socially responsible investing, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) will present a shareholder resolution at the 2016 Tyson Foods Inc. annual shareholders meeting slated for tomorrow at Holiday Inn Northwest Arkansas Convention Center, Springdale. ABHMS is the resolution’s lead filer, joined by four other investors who are members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

The resolution, “Policy to Address Water Impacts of Business Operations and Suppliers 2016,” requests that Tyson adopt and implement a water-stewardship policy designed to reduce risks of water contamination in its direct operations, suppliers and contract farms. Proponents maintain that Tyson’s existing policies fail to adequately address water-quality concerns.

According to the resolution, the policy should encourage leading practices for nutrient management and pollutant limits in its direct operations, suppliers and contract farms, while providing financial and technical support to help contract farmers implement the policy. The resolution also requests the development of a transparent policy with specific time-bound goals and a mechanism to regularly disclose implementation progress.

ABHMS has joined other shareholders regularly engaging in dialogue with the company about these concerns for many years. Various sources of water contamination are possible throughout Tyson’s operations:

  • waste disposal and chicken litter runoff at contract farms;
  • nutrient runoff from fertilizer at farms that provide feed;
  • wastewater from more than 100 processing and slaughtering facilities; and
  • water contamination associated with commodity-based raw materials used in prepared foods (e.g. corn, flour and vegetables).

Tyson and its contract farmers have faced litigation and a number of significant water contamination fines. Investors are concerned that failure to adopt a water-stewardship policy exposes Tyson to ongoing water-contamination risks.

“We offer this resolution for a vote by all shareholders because we are fundamentally concerned about the impact of corporate operations on communities’ access to clean and safe water,” says Michaele Birdsall, ABHMS treasurer and deputy executive director. “Water is a community issue. Corporations need the right policies in place to protect water in communities where they operate as well as among the individuals they employ and their customers. This is fundamental to corporations’ social responsibility to society.”

Research by Environment America found that Tyson and its subsidiaries released 104 million pounds of pollution to surface waters from 2010 to 2014, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory. The figure does not include other sources of pollution from Tyson’s supply chain, such as manure from factory farms that raise chickens for the company.

“Tyson regularly dumps a higher volume of pollution into our rivers than companies like ExxonMobil or Dow Chemical,” says John Rumpler, senior attorney with Environment America. “If we want clean water in our rivers, our bays and our drinking water sources, then companies like Tyson will have to dramatically cut pollution from their operations.”

ABHMS has prepared a memo in support of the resolution. The resolution will be co-presented by the Rev. Dr. Robert Scott, a member of ABHMS’ board of directors and finance committee, and Sister Pat Daly, OP, Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, ABHMS’ socially responsible investing consultant.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies—the domestic mission arm of American Baptist Churches USA—ministers as the caring heart and serving hands of Jesus Christ across the United States and Puerto Rico through a multitude of initiatives that focus on discipleship, community and justice.