A shareholder resolution urging The Kroger Company to separate the CEO and chair of the Board roles will be presented by Lisa Lindsley, Capital Markets Advisor for SumOfUs, an international corporate watchdog at The Kroger Company’s Annual General Meeting of shareholders on June 22. For decades, Kroger CEOs have also been the Board Chair, but the watchdog believes that the Board’s leadership should be independent.
“We believe that independent board leadership would be a constructive move for Kroger, especially when it comes to environmental sustainability issues. Kroger continues to risk its reputation by selling produce treated with neonicotinoids (aka neonics), a group of insecticides highly toxic to bees,” explained Lindsley in a press release. “It’s up to shareholders to ensure that Kroger’s sourcing policies don’t alienate customers. As Kroger’s competitors eliminate neonics, their company could be at a competitive disadvantage. Kroger could make more objective decisions by appointing an independent board chair, which is why we’re urging shareholders to support this corporate governance best practice.”
Kroger is falling behind its competition in this department. In the past year, competitors Wal-mart, Costco, and Whole Foods Market have chosen to eliminate neonicotinoids from their stores, joining 110 retailers nationwide in rejecting the pesticide. “Kroger’s bottom line will suffer if doesn’t take steps to address its contribution to the bee crisis,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth, in the press release. “Polling shows the majority of consumers believe grocery stores should eliminate these harmful pesticides.”
The polling she refers to, a 2016 YouGov poll, shows that 73% of Americans who grocery shop for their household believe it is important for retailers to sell food grown without neonics and 65% said they would be more likely to shop at a grocery store that has formally committed to eliminating neonicotinoids.