A Seattle registered investment advisor is one of the organizations that helped convince McDonald's Corp. to formally survey and promote best practices in pesticide-use reduction within its American potato supply chain.

As a result of an agreement by McDonald's, Seattle-based Newground Social Investment, along with Bard College Endowment and the AFL-CIO Reserve Fund, withdrew a shareholder resolution asking for a report from McDonald's regarding pesticide-use reduction.

"Because McDonald's has such a commanding presence in the marketplace, this commitment offers the promise of significant reductions of pesticide use-which will benefit consumer health, as well as farm workers, local agricultural communities, and the environment," says Newground Social Investment CEO Bruce Herbert, a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Children's Environmental Health. While many institutional investors, including mutual funds, are involved in shareholder advocacy, Newground is one of a handful of investment advisory firms around the country that actively engages public companies on social issues.

As a result of the agreement, McDonald's will survey its current U.S. potato suppliers, compile a list of best practices in pesticide reduction that will be recommended to the company's global suppliers (through the company's Global Potato Board), and communicate findings related to best practices to shareholders as well as include them in the company's annual corporate social responsibility report. McDonald's is the largest buyer of potatoes in the United States.

Pesticides are among the chemicals that can be endocrine disruptors, which when absorbed by the body can block hormones and affect other bodily functions.  "Chemicals affect all of us with impacts that have been shown. A vast experiment is being conducted on people of the world at large and certainly not with their consent," Herbert says.

To its credit, Herbert added, McDonald's didn't hide the fact that it hadn't done any substantive evaluation on the pesticides used in its supply chain, and after rigorously assessing the interests of the groups supporting the effort, it agreed to work with them. The agreement was developed in collaboration between shareholders and McDonald's, with support from the Investor Environmental Health Network.

McDonald's says on its Web site that it has made an ongoing commitment to corporate social responsibility. It has a corporate responsibility committee, which acts in an advisory capacity to the company's management with respect to policies and strategies that affect McDonald's role as a socially responsible organization, including those pertaining to health and safety, the environment, employee opportunities, diversity, consumers and the communities in which McDonald's does business.