PepsiCo Agrees that Access to Water is a Human Right (3/26/09)

CONTACT: Julie N.W. Goodridge

NorthStar Asset Management, Inc.
PO Box 301840
Boston, MA 02130
(617) 522-2635

BOSTON – NorthStar Asset Management, Inc., a socially responsible investment firm, is pleased to announce successful negotiations with PepsiCo, worldwide food and beverage manufacturer, of an official PepsiCo policy in support of the human right to water. PepsiCo is the first publicly traded, multinational corporation to create such a policy.

“This agreement moves beyond vague promises of water conservation that many corporations claim to support,” says Julie Goodridge, CEO of NorthStar Asset Management, Inc. “It commits the company to respecting the right to sufficient clean water, as well as individuals’ rights to be involved in the development of processes that extract water from their communities,” Goodridge said. “This is an important first step, and we look forward to working with PepsiCo to help them fulfill this commitment.”

NorthStar Asset Management was the lead filer of a shareholder resolution submitted last fall that asked the PepsiCo Board of Directors to create a comprehensive policy that would articulate the company’s respect for and commitment to the human right to water. With help from experts in water justice at the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), NorthStar Asset Management and co-filer Boston Common Asset Management have reached an agreement with PepsiCo, allowing the firms to withdraw their shareholder proposal.

Understanding the multi-faceted nature of water scarcity, the agreed-upon policy addresses and defines five policy areas essential to the human right to water as described by the United Nations: the safety, sufficiency, acceptability, physical accessibility, and affordability of water. In clear terms, PepsiCo commits to “ensure that [the company’s] business engagement across the globe, first and foremost, respects the human right to water.” Among other responsibilities in this policy, PepsiCo pledges to preserve the quality, accessibility, and availability of water, involve community members throughout the planning and development process, and even to advocate to government bodies, when appropriate, for the affordability of water.

This policy goes above and beyond the CEO Water Mandate, which is a “voluntary and aspirational” program that encourages multinational corporations to endorse a common vision to reduce water waste. Patricia Jones, Program Manager for Environmental Justice at the UUSC, explains that “PepsiCo and NorthStar have taken up the challenge of the water crisis facing our human community by committing to respect the human right to water, advocating for and implementing policies which contain its core provisions. We hope that this policy will have an immediate effect on PepsiCo’s operations worldwide, and positively impact the individuals’ human rights in communities where PepsiCo businesses are located. This policy will challenge other private operators to rethink their human rights impacts.”

Access to safe, sufficient affordable water is a human right. “This is an important mark of progress,” states Goodridge. “This collaboration between NorthStar Asset Management and PepsiCo illustrates the role shareholders can have, as well as the importance of multinational companies upon public policy.” Companies across the globe would be wise to consider the risk exposure from ignoring the human rights obligations in the countries where they operate.

NorthStar Asset Management, Inc. is a wealth management firm based in Boston, specializing in socially responsible investing.

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