Controversy Erupts at Tyson Shareholder Meeting

Feb 8, 2018 Springdale, AR — Frustrated shareholders submitted a resolution at Tyson Foods’ annual meeting today pushing Tyson to address the egregious pollution driven by the company’s operations and supply chain. A coalition of local and national organizations gathered outside the meeting to voice concerns about the massive amounts of manure, nitrogen, and phosphorus gushing into waterways across the country including the Chesapeake Bay, Mississippi River, and Gulf of Mexico.

“Tyson’s leadership has stated an ambition to be the most sustainable protein company in the world, bar none,” noted Lucia von Reusner, Campaign Director for Mighty Earth. “That’s an exciting vision, but now Tyson needs to actually stop polluting if they want the public to embrace their new mission.”

Tyson Foods has recently made significant investments in “clean meat” company Memphis Meats and plant-based protein company “Beyond Meat,” and CEO Tom Hayes has put sustainability at the center of his mission for the company, even leading with the issue during a recent interview on CNBC’s Mad Money. But the company has yet to show results in delivering the necessary change in its core business, threatening its marketing.

Mighty Earth chronicled how Tyson Foods was contributing to contamination of drinking water and the creation of last summer’s record-sized Gulf of Mexico dead zone in a groundbreaking analysis of agricultural pollution.

“Conventional agriculture—relying on concentrated animal production and non-diverse row crops—is the overwhelming source of Iowa’s polluted surface waters,” noted Bill Stowe, CEO of Des Moines Water Works, which made national headlines for suing upstream counties where Tyson has major facilities for contaminating downstream water supplies in Iowa. “As food consumers, we can leverage our power to encourage mega corporations, like Tyson, to improve supply chain behavior that protect rather than ravage our environment and our communities.”

Mighty Earth’s #CleanItUpTyson campaign urges the industry’s largest and most polluting company to adopt more sustainable agricultural practices, and has spread to nine regions impacted by Tyson’s pollution across the country. Over 85,000 petition signatures from these regions will be delivered outside the company’s annual meeting, and representatives from affected communities will be speaking to media.

“Communities across the country are rightly concerned about the implications of allowing one of America’s largest polluters to move in and set up shop,” commented Jay Ford, Executive Director of Virginia Eastern Shorekeepers, an environmental group pushing back against Tyson’s proposed expansion in the Chesapeake Bay due to water contamination concerns. “The Delmarva Peninsula is echoing the same concerns that citizens of Tonganoxie, Kansas cited when they blocked Tyson’s expansion plans- clean up or get out.”

The shareholder resolution, urging stronger action to reduce water contamination, was filed by a coalition of faith-based investors, who are concerned about the company’s ongoing track record of water contamination and the long-term impact on shareholder value as a result. This is the fourth year the resolution will be filed, earning growing support from shareholders each year, yet Tyson’s leadership has so far refused to respond.

“Tyson shareholders continue to file this resolution, which has garnered mounting support and a majority vote of Class A shareholders, because of the material risk to Tyson’s business, brand, and growth potential if it fails to set in place policies needed to govern sustainable and responsible operations,” stated Mary Beth Gallagher, Executive Director for the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, which filed the shareholder proposal.

“Companies are increasingly realizing that being a responsible corporate citizen that protects the health and well-being of communities and consumers is critical for long-term success,” noted Walter Hinojosa of the Northwest Arkansas Labor Council. “Having the reputation as one of America’s largest polluters is not something anyone wants or is proud of, and we hope that Tyson will step up as a leader in delivering solutions that keep our waters clean and communities healthy.”

About Mighty Earth: 

Mighty Earth is a global environmental campaign organization that works to protect forests, conserve oceans, and address climate change. We work in Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa, and North America to drive large-scale action towards environmentally responsible agriculture that protects native ecosystems, wildlife, and water, and respects local community rights. Mighty Earth’s global team has played a decisive role in persuading the world’s largest food and agriculture companies to dramatically improve their environmental and social policies and practices. More information on Mighty Earth can be found at http://www.mightyearth.org/.