Shareholder proposals calling for reports on the economic impact of AIDS are going for a vote at PepsiCo, where it received only 7.5% of the vote last year, and at Caterpillar and ChevronTexaco, both where it appears for the first time.
Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo, whose annual meeting is May 5 in Plano, Texas, expects to issue its proxy statement in the next week, said Elaine Palmer, manager-corporate information. PepsiCo belongs to the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, a corporate group that also includes Coca-Cola and ChevronTexaco.
"We do understand their (ICCR group's) point of view and appreciate it," Ms. Palmer said. "We agree as responsible corporate citizens we need to address this issue."
PepsiCo has begun to use guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative for reporting on social and environmental as well as economic factors. The Global Reporting Initiative, started by the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies in 1997, became an independent institution in 2002 to develop voluntary globally applicable and sustainable reporting guidelines.
"We feel because we will use the global reporting initiative, this (ICCR shareholder proposal) would have been redundant," Ms. Palmer said. "We need time to report. They (the ICCR groups) wanted us to report in six months."
Caterpillar, Peoria, Ill., in its proxy statement, calls the proposal excessive, noting sub-Saharan Africa accounted for only 1% of the company's total assets, 3% of net earnings and 3% of the company's sales and revenues. The statement points out employees in the region have access to company-subsidized health benefits covering counseling, voluntary testing and treatment programs for HIV/AIDS. Caterpillar's annual meeting is April 14 in Chicago.
Mr. Rosan said ICCR representatives had telephone conversations with Caterpillar officials to try to reach a compromise on the proposal. Despite Caterpillar's health-care effort with its employees, he said, "If the company (Caterpillar) has good policies, there is no reason for them not to report.
"Reporting in a proxy statement isn't enough," Mr. Rosan said. "Reporting on a narrow workplace setting isn't enough. Our resolution calls for reporting on the economic impact. If (Caterpillar) contractors aren't treated, if the communities around them (Caterpillar operations) are destabilized (by AIDS), that's a problem for investors.
"The issue is, are we doing this (introducing shareholder proposal) as humanitarians or shareholders? As humanitarians, Caterpillar‘s response is fine. As fiduciaries, it's not sufficient."
ChevronTexaco, San Ramon, Calif., opposes the proposal in its preliminary proxy statement. ChevronTexaco's annual meeting is April 28 in San Ramon. Company officials met with an ICCR representative, a ChevronTexaco spokesman said.
The company's preliminary proxy statement opposes the proposal, noting in part ChevronTexaco's "numerous actions to help address HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and uses all available vehicles to communicate its efforts," saying "a special report would only divert resources from its efforts to alleviate the suffering from these diseases."
"The company launched an effort to comprehensively assess its practices around the world, benchmark itself against world-class corporate programs, and design a process for formally assessing the potential impacts of HIV/AIDS on the company's operations," the statement continues
The statement notes the company's activities in on this health issue "is published in its annual Corporate Responsibility report."
ICCR groups are also working with Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, Mich., on a similar AIDS proposal, according to Mr. Rosan. Ford officials couldn't be reached for confirmation and comment.
Coca-Cola's board, by the way, opposes the six other shareholder proposals in its proxy statement; none of the others involves ICCR.