Coca-Cola shareholders reject proposal to investigate ‘risks’ of doing business in pro-life states

A non-profit organization sought to persuade Coca-Cola investors to issue a “Report on Risk Due to Restrictions on Reproductive Rights,” which would require investigation into “potential risks or costs to the company caused by … state policies severely restricting reproductive rights.” The attempt failed.

Bloomberg Law reported that the proposal was filed by As You Sow, a non-profit organization focused on promoting what they call “corporate social responsibility.” As Coca-Cola is a publicly traded corporation, shareholders have the right to put proposals up for votes.

“Coke may not want to get involved in the politics of this topic, but the politics of this topic have gotten involved with Coca-Cola,” Meredith Benton, a consultant from Whistle Stop Capital who works with As You Sow, said at the shareholders meeting.

As You Sow claimed pro-life policies in some states would cause women to leave the workforce. Furthermore, they complained that Coca-Cola has donated nearly $2 million to pro-life politicians and organizations. “We don’t think it’s good for business,” CEO Andrew Behar told the Daily Mail. “We don’t think they should be associating the brand with polarizing political topics. You don’t just get caught up [in anti-abortion policy]. We know the people in Coca-Cola. We’ve been in this conversation for four years.”

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Coca-Cola is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, where nearly all preborn babies are protected from abortion.

Yet 87% of shareholders rejected As You Sow’s proposal, and Coca-Cola released a proxy statement saying it already has policies in place to properly address the health care of their female employees.

“The Board believes that the Company’s robust risk management processes that are already in place are appropriate and sufficient to address potential risks raised in this shareowner proposal, without conducting additional analysis or reporting,” the statement said. “In addition, the Company already has in place comprehensive health benefits that provide for our employees’ needs, as opposed to what might be otherwise suggested in this proposal. … This proposal suggests that our employees face challenges accessing certain benefits. The Company has in place comprehensive health benefits that provide for our employees’ needs. The Company takes pride in the comprehensive Total Rewards package offered to our employees. This includes benefits essential to the well-being of women, children and families, such as reproductive and maternal health services, and family planning.”

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