BOSTON, MA – Institutional and faith-based shareholders have tried to engage Target on a number of shareholder issues during this proxy season including the phase out of PVC-packaging and healthcare reform.
“Target is batting zero this proxy season when it comes to shareholder engagement,” states Lauren Compere, Director of Shareholder Advocacy of Boston Common Asset Management. “We have been involved with both shareholder issues and we are very surprised that Target has not come to the table to address these critical issues which have bottom-line and reputational impacts on Target’s brand.” Shareholders are sending a representative to Target’s May 24th annual general meeting to give voice to these issues.
On the issue of PVC packaging phase-out, Target has been the focus of a consumer boycott for nearly a year with over 200 demonstrations planned for the day of the annual meeting. Shareholders began a dialogue with senior management nearly 8 months ago asking the company to review health concerns related to PVC, as well as product alternatives and procurement options.
A group of Target shareholders representing members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility – a coalition of nearly 300 institutional investors with more than $150 billion in assets, and members of the Investor Environmental Health Network – a coalition of over 20 institutional investors with over $22 billion in combined assets, contacted Target in September 2006 with their concerns regarding the company’s products and packaging made out of PVC. “Target is clearly an industry laggard on this issue. Its major competitor Wal-Mart, and companies all around the world including Ikea, Nike and Sony have made commitments to phase out PVC in products or packaging” states Michael Passoff, Associate Director of As You Sow. “Despite consumer and investor concern Target can still not answer basic questions such as what is the company’s commitment to exploring alternatives to PVC? What is the process, who is responsible, what is the timeframe?”
On the issue of healthcare reform, Target has been even more unresponsive to investor concerns and the company challenged a shareholder proposal filed in December with the SEC. “Target prides itself as being on target when it comes to knowing what its customers want. However, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility shareholders are concerned that the company is missing the mark when it comes to addressing the health care crisis,” says Sister Judy Byron who coordinates the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment and represents the Dominican Sisters of Adrian Michigan. “While company after company has joined coalitions to work on health care reform and universal health care policy, Target remains unengaged and is unresponsive to our request to dialogue about how the company is positioning itself to address this critical public policy and business issue.”
There are a growing number of responsible investors who recognize that medical benefits are a critical issue for U.S. companies to address. “Because this issue directly impacts the profitability as well as the health and productivity of its employees, we believe that Target should be involved in efforts designed to address the issue of universal health care.” says Lauren Compere, Director of Shareholder Advocacy at Boston Common Asset Management.