Plastic bags, antibiotic reporting are among proposals likely to be rejected by Walmart shareholders

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 2,195 views 

Walmart will hold its annual shareholder business meeting virtually at 10:30 a.m. on June 3 as the company continues to take precautions to safeguard its employees and shareholders amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The business meeting includes the election of directors for another annual term and ratification of the retailer’s independent accountants — Ernst & Young LLP — for the year ending Jan. 31, 2021.

Shareholders will also be asked to approve executive compensation for top-earning Walmart execs and amend the Saveshare Plan 2,000 for subsidiary ASDA. Company directors and leadership approved all four proposals, according to the company’s proxy filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Four other proposals are not supported by the Walton family, directors and executive leadership and have no chance of passing. The Walton family heirs of Alice, Rob and Jim control slightly more than half of the outstanding shares of Walmart voting stock as of April 8.

Proposals No. 4 through No. 8 are brought by the interest group, AsYouSow.org, and United For Respect. Each group has recently filed notices of exempt solicitation with the SEC outlining their reasons for shareholder support.

The interest group As You Sow has filed Proposal No. 5 asking Walmart to phase out plastic shopping bags in its retail stores. The group said Walmart distributes an estimated 18 billion to 20 billion single-use plastic carryout shopping bags per year, which contributes to plastic pollution. About one trillion single-use plastic bags are used annually across the globe or 2 million every minute.

The proposal asks Walmart to issue a report assessing the environmental impacts of continuing single-use plastic shopping bags that include goals to phase them out. The group cites competitors Costco, Trader Joes and Whole Foods that have already banned plastic shopping bags and traditional grocery Kroger plans to phase them out by 2025. As You Sow said in a recent filing Walmart’s actions fall short and the company should get in step with other competitors having already banned this form of pollution for the betterment of oceans and land.

Proposal No. 6 filed by As You Sow asks Walmart to report on supplier antibiotics use standards. The group wants Walmart to restrict the use of medically important antibiotics by meat and poultry suppliers and assess the costs and benefits to public health. The company said it supports the judicious use of antibiotics in animal agriculture and it holds its suppliers to high standards regarding antibiotics stewardship.

United for Respect filed Proposal No. 7 asking Walmart to include hourly employees as director candidates. The group quotes founder Sam Walton as saying “The folks on the front lines — the ones who actually talk to the customers — are the only ones who really know what’s going on out there.” The group said hourly employee representation on the Walmart Board is a proven solution to the governance challenges Walmart faces.

“As Walmart associates, we are committed to our jobs, stores, customers and communities. Our interests in a well-governed, responsible Walmart are aligned with long-term shareholders; our insights on the Board will help manage risks, identify opportunities, repair Walmart’s reputation and support sound decision-making to guide our company through this crisis, and future ones,” the group said in a recent filing with the SEC.

As You Sow also filed Proposal No. 8 asking Walmart for a report of strengthening the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace. The proposal is partially the result of heightened attention to sexual harassment and how it can harm corporate reputations. Former Walmart director Steve Easterbrook resigned his position as CEO of McDonald’s and his Walmart board seat in 2019 after engaging in inappropriate relations with an employee. The fallout on McDonald’s stock was a $4 billion loss in market cap immediately following his resignation. Walmart is also subject to ongoing sexual harassment issues which the group says prompts robust board oversight.

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