Shareholder Activists Challenge PepsiCo On Human Right to Water (5/1/08)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 1, 2008
CONTACT: Julie Goodridge
NorthStar Asset Management, Inc.
PO Box 301840, Boston, MA 02130
BOSTON – In the face of increasingly alarming statistics about the global availability of clean drinking water, PepsiCo shareholders and human rights activists have teamed up to demand that PepsiCo create and follow a policy that respects the Human Right to Water.
“Water scarcity is a serious modern-day reality,” says Julie Goodridge, CEO of NorthStar Asset Management, Inc., a wealth management firm based in Boston. “One of every six people in the world lacks access to safe drinking water. Dehydration claims the lives of nearly 2 million children every year. This is compounded by the fact that water is being turned into a profitable commodity to be bottled and sold to individuals who can afford the product…Effectively, billions of people are being left without safe water.”
In the production of its beverage products, PepsiCo Inc. consumes large amounts of natural groundwater, as it requires two liters of water to produce one liter of Pepsi Cola. PepsiCo does not currently have any stated policy protecting and ensuring people’s right to water, particularly in the impoverished communities where the Company operates.
To address this, NorthStar Asset Management, Inc. and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), an international human rights organization based in Cambridge, Mass. are bringing a resolution to PepsiCo at their annual shareholder meeting on May 7, 2008, requesting that they recognize and implement a comprehensive Human Right to Water policy. This is the first shareholder resolution of its kind that specifically addresses this issue.
In an effort to quiet the shareholders, PepsiCo challenged the resolution at the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission without success.
In 2002, the United Nations defined the Human Right to Water as all people’s right to safe, sufficient, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use.
Patricia Jones, manager of UUSC’s Environmental Justice Program, said, “The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) exists to ensure that our global societies develop sustainably and justly. In their annual report card on our collective progress in November 2006, they gave us a failing grade.
“The UNDP declared that we have allowed a new apartheid to come into being, a water apartheid. Even in places where there is enough water for peoples’ needs, it is not being provided to those who are the most vulnerable. It is prioritized for the benefit of wealthy consumers and corporations, who can afford to pay for its use. What does the UNDP suggest that we can do? Implement the Human Right to Water. This would ensure that priority is given to people’s human rights.”
NorthStar Asset Management, Inc. believes that PepsiCo has a fiduciary duty to shareholders to implement the UN-defined Human Right to Water. “A global corporation that operates without strong human rights and environmental policies faces serious risks to reputation and share value if they are seen as responsible for, or complicit in, human rights violations,” explained Goodridge. “This absolutely includes the erosion of the Human Right to Water. Lets face it: water is the next oil, and both resources are running out. The only difference is that we can live without oil. We can’t live without water. PepsiCo has the opportunity to lead the industry on this critical issue to our company.”
NorthStar Asset Management Inc. specializes in socially responsible investing. UUSC, through its Environmental Justice Program, advocates for the human right to water in the United States and around the world, working with grassroots partners in Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, South Africa, and Tanzania.
NorthStar Asset Management, Inc. is a wealth management firm based in Boston, specializing in socially responsible investing.