Religious Shareholders to Challenge PepsiCo To Report Effect of AIDS in Africa Operations
Coalition's Resolution Asks Company for Report on Business Impact of AIDS
GOSHEN, Ind., April 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Concerned PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) shareholders today announced their sponsorship of a proxy resolution asking the soft drink industry giant to report on how it plans to deal with the business and employee impact of the AIDS pandemic in Africa. On March 4, 2003, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rejected a PepsiCo effort to kill the proxy measure. The resolution was filed by MMA along with the Congregation of the Sisters 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 New Jersey, and ASC Investment Group. The resolution will be voted on May 7, 2003, at the PepsiCo annual meeting in Plano, Texas. Mark Regier, stewardship investing services manager for MMA said, "Besides being a humanitarian issue, this also is a very real business issue for PepsiCo and its shareholders. The company has told us the spreading pandemic of AIDS in Africa is not material to their business. But shareholders don't know that for sure until research is done. We are asking for a report on how this pandemic will affect the company's business in Africa. The reality here is that other major companies in Africa have recognized the importance of this issue and are responding to shareholders' concerns by reporting on how they are dealing with it. At MMA, we are responsible as shareowners to call on PepsiCo to take the same action." Seamus Finn, director of Social Justice for the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate U.S., and head of the AIDS Issue Group for the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, said: "This is a perfect illustration of how doing the right thing from a moral standpoint is also the right thing from a business standpoint. These shareholders believe PepsiCo's globally visible brand and sales dependence on disposable income make the company highly susceptible to reduced sales resulting from either the AIDS pandemic itself or a backlash to the company's refusal to deal with this issue. PepsiCo may be well-positioned to help respond and contribute to the HIV/AIDS mitigation efforts." The proxy resolution submitted by the PepsiCo shareholders asks for an inexpensive study detailing the impact of AIDS on the company's business operations in Africa. The resolution states: Shareholders request the Board of Directors to report on: the effect of the health pandemic on the company's operations in Sub-Saharan Africa; the Company's response to the pandemic; and, that the report would be made available to shareholders by October 2003 (omitting proprietary information and at reasonable cost). Within the last two weeks, PepsiCo has added a new section, HIV/AIDS Initiatives, to its corporate Web site in response to shareholder concerns. The new section features information on its African business operations, employee programs, and charitable activities. "We thank and applaud PepsiCo for this response to shareholder concern on this issue," commented Regier. "We look forward to a thoughtful assessment of the overall business impact of the pandemic on the company's African operations. It is only from this perspective that we can judge the appropriateness or effectiveness of investments in employee and community programs. We hope this next critical step is yet to come and welcome the opportunity to assist the company in any way we can." While PepsiCo operations are smaller in Africa than other comparable corporations, PepsiCo has indicated operations in Africa are growing and that they are "in Africa for the long term." The United Nations, the World Health Organization and many business leaders have highlighted the pandemic as an issue for all participants in the Sub-Saharan economy. ABOUT MMA and MMA PRAXIS MUTUAL FUNDS MMA, together with its MMA Praxis Mutual Funds, helps individuals meet their financial goals in ways that support their beliefs. MMA practices stewardship investing, a philosophy that balances a need for productive use of financial resources with a deep-seated concern for others. For more information on MMA Praxis, visit http://www.mmapraxis.com. As a stewardship solutions organization, MMA helps Anabaptists and others practice biblical stewardship through its expertise in insurance, financial services, charitable-giving programs, and educational resources. For more information, visit http://www.mma-online.org.
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