Environmental groups call on P&G investors to vote out CEO as chairman of the board

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NEW YORK — Environmental groups are calling on Procter & Gamble Co investors to vote against its chief executive’s re-election as board chair, and are also opposing two other directors at next month’s annual meeting , according to a filing that claims the company uses too much virgin wood pulp in its paper products.

Environmental nonprofits, including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), have targeted the maker of Bounty paper towels and Charmin toilet paper in recent years, and are also calling on the consumer products company to clean up the way it sources palm oil from the rainforests.

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NRDC, Friends of the Earth and Rainforest Action Network now want investors to vote against CEO Jon Moeller as chairman of the board, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing . They also oppose corporate directors Angela Braly, chair of the governance and public responsibility committee, and Patricia Woertz, member of this committee.

Investors must vote on the re-election of P&G directors at its October 11 annual meeting. In the filing, environmental groups are calling for Moeller to be replaced by an independent chairman, a structure some investors prefer.

“P&G’s actions have been insufficient to mitigate deforestation,” the filing says, adding that the company’s “management team lacks the skills, perspective and experience” to deal with the environmental risks it faces. confronted.

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A P&G spokeswoman said the company’s directors all received more than 90% investor support last year. She added that P&G has released reports summarizing its efforts, which include disclosing more data and eliminating sourcing from certain forests.

Environmentalists have been pushing P&G to make changes to forestry for several years.

“These proposals are more powerful because they get more support,” said Nell Minow, vice president of corporate governance consultancy ValueEdge Advisors, adding that recent regulatory changes make it easier for activist investors to nominate their own. administrators.

“There is an important next step and it will increase the heat of these conversations,” Minow said.

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The Cincinnati-based company said in a July update that it had created and was testing two new Charmin products, one made with plant fibers and the other with bamboo, efforts supported by environmentalists.

The consumer products conglomerate has also promised that by 2030 it will only buy wood pulp that meets certain criteria.

Two years ago, a majority of investors backed a resolution by Green Century Capital Management Inc calling on P&G to release a report on how it could strengthen its efforts to eliminate deforestation and degradation from its supply chain.

“Two years later, they’ve done next to nothing,” said NRDC policy officer Jennifer Skene.

Last year, NRDC also urged investors to vote against Braly, and she received significantly fewer votes than other directors for her renomination to the board, according to a securities filing.

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NRDC has the backing of two shareholders who are descendants of P&G founders, Christopher Matthews of New York and Justine Epstein of the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Matthews and Epstein told Reuters they had asked Moeller to meet this month, but as of Monday they had still not received a response.

P&G is “laser-focused on shareholder values ​​and corporate value from an asset perspective,” Matthews said.

“The investment community sees it as a laggard when it comes to sustainability,” he said.

Braly’s role as chair of the Governance and Public Accountability Committee, which oversees environmental concerns, including forestry, “has failed to mitigate” the risks associated with P&G’s forest sourcing, they said. environmental groups.

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Woertz’s role on the same committee is “questionable,” the groups said, because she worked at oil and gas explorer Chevron Corp for nearly 30 years, the nonprofits said.

Braly did not immediately return a request for comment. Woertz could not be immediately reached.

Environmental groups said Moeller’s work with Bayer-owned Monsanto “does not align with the priority given to corporate responsibility or scientific integrity.” Bayer agreed in 2020 to pay billions of dollars to settle lawsuits brought by people who claimed they were harmed by its Roundup weed killer, and is defending against thousands of lawsuits brought by Roundup users.

Moeller left Monsanto’s board of directors in 2018, the P&G spokeswoman said. (Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis and David Gregorio)

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Robert D. Coleman