Shareholder: P&G’s green claims ‘misleading’ due to ‘unchecked balance of power’
The CEO of activist investor Tulipshare told NZI Procter & Gamble fails to address shareholders’ sustainability concerns
It is the summer of 2020, a leafy summer afternoon in Cincinnati, Ohio, where American consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble is based.
That afternoon, shareholders of the 180-year old multinational that operates in over 70 countries with annual sales of more than $70 billion, have had enough: 67% support a proposal for the company to address their contributions to deforestation.
Fast forward 30 months and, despite a majority backing, the company has taken no action since, according to some investors.
Does this send a signal that the concerns of shareholders are falling on deaf ears?
P&G, responsible for household brands like Head & Shoulders, Pampers and Old Spice, is one of the world’s top fast-moving consumer goods companies.
However, they are currently targeting primary forests across North America and harvesting palm oil from South West Asia for many of their products, according to Antoine Argouges, the CEO and founder of activist investor Tulipshare, a shareholder in P&G with 250 shares.
Argouges told Net Zero Investor this morning: "Not only are they directly responsible for the degradation of primary forests, the company is complicit in destroying the livelihoods of indigenous communities where they operate."
Argouges revealed that, two weeks ago, Tulipshare met with Procter & Gamble’s investor relations team to discuss and explain why his company's shareholder-led campaign seeking to install an independent chair can add value and balance to the board, ensuring deforestation and sustainability concerns are being addressed.
"During the meeting, the company claimed they were adequately addressing their contributions to deforestation and that there is no need for them to set time bound commitments at this point in time," Argouges shared.
He argued that P&G's lack of any time bound commitments to end primary forest degradation means the company is without what the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) deem in their most recent guidelines for corporate due diligence in forest sourcing to be a ‘key element’ for company policies addressing forest supply chains.
Additionally, Argouges singled out the company’s sourcing policy report, which states that P&G is working towards eliminating deforestation.
However, "it continues to source pulp from suppliers who are sourcing materials from primary forests if they have certification," he claimed.
"Coupled with statements such as 'P&G is committed to eliminating deforestation from our supply chains' and 'P&G aims to eliminate deforestation, protect or conserve special sites' these claims are nothing more than misleading," Argouges said.
Chair and CEO Moeller
Zooming in on P&G's board, Argouges pointed out there are various directors on the board with increasingly long tenures - Angela F. Braly (13 years), Terry J. Lundgren (9 years), and Patricia A. Woertz (14 years).
"This raises concerns around the potential lack of independence among the board and begs the question, why P&G chose to appoint Jon R. Moeller as Chair [in July 2022], after he was appointed as CEO [in November 2021]," he said.
Moeller (top picture) joined P&G in 1988 and has held various executive positions at the company since 2009, including CFO, COO, and Vice Chairman.
"By giving him a dual executive role, proxy advisory companies are increasingly recognising this as an unchecked balance of power," according to Argouges.
"This lapse in corporate governance and a lack of accountability among P&G’s leadership team and the board of directors is why shareholders are losing confidence in their ability to deliver on deforestation and sustainability targets," he continued.
"The company’s inaction will almost certainly lead to missed opportunities for capitalising on marketplace shifts toward more sustainable products, in addition to furthering risks for the company," Argouges concluded.
Net Zero Investor has approached P&G for a response.