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MONEY & BUSINESS: Environmental groups ask investors to vote against P&G CEO, directors

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By Jessica DiNapoli

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Environmental groups are asking Procter & Gamble Co investors to vote against its chief executive and two directors at its annual meeting next month because they believe the company still uses too much virgin wood pulp in its paper products, according to a filing.

Environmental nonprofits including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have targeted the maker of Bounty paper towels and Charmin toilet paper, and are also calling on the consumer products company to clean up how it sources palm oil from tropical rainforests.

NRDC, Friends of the Earth and the Rainforest Action Network now want investors to vote against CEO Jon Moeller, who is chairman of the board, and corporate directors Angela Braly, chair of the governance and public responsibility committee and Patricia Woertz, a member of that committee according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Investors are to vote on the re-election of P&G’s corporate directors at its annual meeting on Oct. 11.

“P&G’s actions have been insufficient to mitigate deforestation,” the filing said, adding that the company’s “leadership team lacks the skills, perspectives and experiences” to deal with the environmental risks.

P&G did not return a request for comment.

The Cincinnati-based company said in an update in July that it has created and is testing two new Charmin products, one made with plant-based fiber and another with bamboo, efforts supported by environmentalists.

The consumer products conglomerate has also vowed to exclusively purchase wood pulp that meets certain criteria by 2030.

A majority of investors two years ago backed a resolution by Green Century Capital Management Inc calling on P&G to issue a report on how it could beef up its efforts to eliminate deforestation and degradation in its supply chain.

“Two years later, they’ve done basically nothing,” said Jennifer Skene, a policy manager at NRDC.

Last year, NRDC also urged investors to vote against Braly, and she received significantly fewer votes for her re-nomination to the board compared to other directors, according to a securities filing.

NRDC has the support of two descendants of the founders of P&G, Christopher Matthews of New York and Justine Epstein of the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Matthews and Epstein told Reuters they had asked Moeller for a meeting but as of Monday they had yet to hear back. They also hold P&G shares.

P&G is “laser-focused on shareholder values and the value of the company from an asset perspective,” Matthews said.

“The investment community sees it lagging behind on sustainability,” Matthews said.

Braly’s role as the chair of the governance and public responsibility committee, which oversees environmental concerns including forestry, “have not succeeded in mitigating” risks in P&G’s forest sourcing, the environmental groups said.

Woertz’s role on the same committee is “questionable,” the groups said, because she worked at oil-and-gas explorer Chevron Corp for nearly 30 years, the non-profits said.

Braly did not immediately return a request for comment. Woertz could not immediately be reached.

The environmental groups said Moeller’s work with Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, “does not align with prioritizing corporate responsibility or scientific integrity.” Bayer agreed in 2020 to pay billions of dollars to settle lawsuits by people who claimed they were harmed by Roundup, and is defending itself against thousands of lawsuits by Roundup users.

(Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York City; editing by Jonathan Oatis and David Gregorio)





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