Consider this another installment that chronicles the shareholder advocacy fight against Bisphenol A, a controversial chemical used in can linings and plastic bottles that's been linked to cancer, diabetes, developmental damage, and heart disease in animals.
One of the latest moves in this fight happened June 22, when a coalition of investors and other groups representing more than $26 billion in assets sent a letter to Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Agency (FDA), applauding her recent decision to reassess the safety of bisphenol A (BPA)-a controversial chemical used in can linings and hard plastics-and pushing the FDA to change its position.
The letter, signed by 27 investors, investment advisory companies, foundations, and shareholder advocacy groups, urged the FDA to "ensure that sound independent, unbiased science is used to reach its final assessment" of the safety of BPA. The agency has come under fire from many, including its own scientific subcommittee, for depending too heavily on industry data in its prior assessment of BPA's safety. Investors who signed the letter say the FDA's assessment of safety and lack of federal regulation contribute to industry's continued use of the chemical.
"The FDA's current assessment that BPA is safe is the fact most often cited by companies as the reason for the lack of market movement towards substitute materials," the letter says. In fact, some companies say they would prefer to move to other alternatives but lack of federal regulation creates disincentives for them to invest in research, development and deployment of such alternatives, it adds.
"As investors, we're concerned that the use of BPA, particularly in food and beverage packaging, may threaten shareholder value. Companies may face reputational, competitive, or market exclusion risks from using BPA. We are thrilled that the FDA is reconsidering its assessment," commented Emily Stone of Green Century Capital Management, the investment advisory firm that organized the letter.
In addition to Kristina Curtis of Green Century Capital Management, others signing the letter include Shelley Alpern, Trillium Asset Management, Boston, Mass.; Judy Byron, Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, Seattle, Wash.; Kathleen Coll, Catholic Health East, Newton Square, Pa.; Lauren Compere, Boston Common Asset Management, Boston, Mass.; Séamus P. Finn, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Washington, D.C., and Rome, Italy; Marie Gaillac, Catholic Coalition for Responsible Investing, Oakland, Calif.; Julie Fox Gorte, Pax World Management Corp., Portsmouth, N.H.; Alisa Gravitz, Green America, Washington, D.C.; John Harrington, Harrington Investments Inc.; Napa, Calif.; Valerie Heinonen, Dominican Sisters of Hope, Mercy Investment Program, Sisters of Mercy Regional Community of Detroit Charitable Trust, Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk, U.S. Province; Bruce T. Herbert, Newground Social Investment, Seattle, Wash.; Ethel Howley, School Sisters of Notre Dame Cooperative Investment Fund, Wilton, Conn.; Ellen Kennedy, Calvert Asset Management Company Inc., Bethesda, Md.; Peter W. Krull, Krull & Company, Darien, Ga.; Ruth Kuhn, Region VI Coalition for Responsible Investment, Cincinnati, Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati , Mount St. Joseph, Ohio; Emily Lethenstrom, Portfolio 21 Investments, Portland, Ore.; Tim Little, Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment Oakland, Calif.; Thomas McCaney, Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia; Michael Passoff, As You Sow, San Francisco; Jack Robinson, Winslow Management, Boston; Karen Shapiro, Domini Social Investments LLC, New York; Eric Smith, CFP, AIF, Goodfunds Wealth Management, Seattle, Wash.; Tim Smith, Walden Asset Management, Boston; Susan Vickers, Catholic Healthcare West, San Francisco; Stephen Viederman, Christopher Reynolds Foundation, New York, N.Y.; and Margaret Weber, Congregation of St. Basil, Detroit, Mich.