Baptists push Tyson to clean up its act

Thursday, February 4, 2016 Social Issues

Baptist group urges Tyson Foods to address water quality

As part of a commitment to socially responsible investing, American Baptist Home Mission Societies will present a shareholder resolution at the 2016 Tyson Foods annual shareholders meeting tomorrow in Springdale, Ark.

By Bob Allen

Shareholders of Tyson Foods will vote Feb. 5 on a resolution filed by American Baptist Home Missions Societies asking the food giant to clean up its act regarding water pollution.

Environmentalists say corporate agribusiness is emerging as one of the biggest threats to America’s waterways, contributing to dead zones from the Chesapeake Bay to the Gulf of Mexico and threatening the nation’s drinking water supply.

Tyson Foods Inc., one of the world’s largest producers of meat and poultry, adds to pollution with manure from its contract growers’ factory farm operations, fertilizer runoff from grain grown to feed livestock and waste from its processing plants.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Tyson and its subsidiaries dumped 104 million pounds of pollutants into waterways from 2010 to 2014, the second-highest volume on the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory and seven times more than Exxon Mobil.

American Baptist Home Missions Societies, which handles justice ministries on behalf of American Baptist Churches, USA, joined four investor co-filers from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility in a shareholder resolution asking Tyson’s board of directors to adopt and implement “a water stewardship policy” designed to reduce risks of water contamination.

Michaele BirdsallMichaele

Michaele Birdsall“Water is a community issue,” said Michaele Birdsall, treasurer and deputy executive director of American Baptist Home Missions Societies. “Corporations need the right policies in place to protect water in communities where they operate as well as among the individuals they employ and their customers. This is fundamental to corporations’ social responsibility to society.”

In the 1990s Tyson was blamed for degradation of the White River in Arkansas. In 2009 the company was fined $2 million for pumping animal waste into the Missouri River. Tyson faces ongoing federal criminal investigation related to the discharge of wastewater from a Missouri treatment plant into a local stream that caused fish kills and pollution. The company paid a $540,000 judgment in response to the civil suit and could lose up to $500 million annually if the EPA criminal investigation leads to suspension of government contracts.

Despite all that, the shareholder resolution states, Tyson Foods does not have policies to adequately address water quality concerns. It calls on the company to “adopt and implement a water stewardship policy designed to reduce risks of water contamination at Tyson-owned facilities, facilities under contract to Tyson and Tyson’s suppliers.”

The resolution is one of six proposals addressing social impact and transparency to be considered at Friday’s annual shareholder meeting in Springdale, Ark. According to Arkansas Online, the Tyson board of directors recommends that shareholders vote against all six proposals and none of them is likely to pass.

While any shareholder who owns $2,000 worth of stock or more can file a proposal, Arkansas Online reported, the Tyson family controls about 70 percent of voting shares.

— With reporting by American Baptist News Service

See more at: