A shareholder initiative introduced Wednesday at the annual PepsiCo shareholders meeting in Plano, Tex., that calls on the company to investigate ways to deal with the business and employee impact of AIDS in Africa gained support from 7.5% of the company's shareholders, a level sufficient for its reintroduction next year. Securities and Exchange Commission regulations require any shareholder resolution to garner at least 3% of the vote on its first reading in order to be reintroduced later. The proxy resolution asked the company to evaluate what kind of treatment and support programs might be useful for HIV-positive employees and their families as well as to gauge the overall impact of AIDS on the company's operations in Africa. Company leaders were opposed to the resolution and attempted to kill it before the shareholder meeting, but the SEC ruled March 4 that PepsiCo had to allow the measure's backers to introduce it.
The resolution was drafted by several religious groups and religious investment firms with shares in the company, including the Congregation of Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word; School Sisters of Notre Dame Cooperative Investment Fund; Sisters of Mercy of the Americas; Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, N.J.; ASC Investment Group; and Mennonite Mutual Aid.
Mark Regier, stewardship investing services manager for MMA, said the shareholder vote was "an extremely encouraging outcome and one that exceeds our expectations, which were modest. During a resolution's first year, you work hard just to make sure people know the issue exists. But this resolution seemed to strike a chord immediately with many shareholders. People understand that this is both a business and a humanitarian issue for PepsiCo. More shareholders now want to know how this pandemic will affect PepsiCo's business throughout Africa."