Speech given at 2008 PepsiCo Shareholder Meeting

by Claire DeWitte

My name is Claire DeWitte and I represent NorthStar Asset Management, Inc, co-filer with Unitarian Universalist Service Committee of Proposal #5.

Our resolution requests our Board of Directors to create a comprehensive policy articulating our company’s respect for and commitment to the Human Right to Water.

In 2007, PepsiCo endorsed the CEO Water Mandate. On April 3, 2008 – just 4 weeks ago – the CEO Water Mandate issued its first conference reporting on voluntary and aspirational initiatives supported by signers. The mandate states three major points:

* As leaders of business organizations we recognize that the private sector has an important stake in helping to address the water challenge faced by the world today.

* Scarcity and related problems pose material risks but can also, when well managed, create opportunities for improvement and innovation.

* Unsafe drinking water and lack of appropriate sanitation profoundly affect the health and well-being of billions of people, including those who are our customers and employees.

Through this report, our company has publicly acknowledged that water availability impacts not only the bottom line, but also the health and safety of the communities in which we operate. Yet while one of every six people in the world lacks access to safe drinking water, our company PepsiCo, uses 2.5 liters of water for every liter of soda it produces. Our company sells 36 billion liters of soda a year. And uses in excess of 90 billion liters of water in the process.

Our company relies on the same water resources as the communities in which we operate. It would behoove our company to ensure that the most important ingredient is protected for everyone. If a rural community in India can no longer access their indispensable groundwater and accuses our company of overexploiting the resource, concerned and mobilized consumers in the United States will know in less than a day. And regardless of mandates signed, our good brand name will be jeopardized in a matter of hours.

The United Nations defines the human right to water as all people’s right to safe, sufficient, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use. Our company conducts business in countries such as South Africa that have constitutional provisions protecting the Human Right to Water, and other countries, such as India and Argentina, which enforce the Human Right to Water through the right to healthy environment and the right to life.

Joining the CEO Water Mandate is a great start, but it is not sufficient. Our board has a fiduciary obligation to reduce liability risks. It would be imprudent for our board to ignore the risk of global human rights violations, including the human right to water, as a potential liability. Identifying and understanding our business impact on water and in the communities where we operate needs to be guided by the creation of an internal Human Right to Water policy. The development of this policy will ensure that we implement long-term strategies that address potential human rights violations and risks associated with our global usage of water. A comprehensive Human Right to Water policy will protect and maximize our shareholder value.

And as we are all aware, climate change is rapidly exasperating water availability, which is increasing the global competition for water.

We urge our company to be a leader in the industry at this pivotal point in history and ask our fellow shareholders to vote FOR proposal #5 – water is a human right.

Related Posts