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YUM! Brands Supports Activist By Seeking Reduced Plastic Pollution

33% of Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE:YUM) and 22% of Restaurant Brands International Support As You Sow Proposals on Plastic Pollution

Reduced Plastic Pollution
hhach / Pixabay

June 13, 2019—Nearly $15 billion of shareholder value supported As You Sow shareholder proposals at two iconic U.S. fast food brand companies in recent votes seeking reduced plastic pollution by banning polystyrene foam packaging and plastic straws, and providing on-site recycling.

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On Tuesday, a shareholder proposal at Restaurant Brands International, parent company of Burger King and Tim Hortons, got thumbs up from 22 percent of shares voted, worth $7.4 billion (RBI is 51 percent owned by global investor 3G Capital. The results suggest that a majority of independent shareholders actually supported the proposal). Last month, a similar proposal at YUM! Brands, parent company of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, attracted support from 33 percent of shares voted, worth $7.1 billion.

The proposals asked the companies to develop environmental leadership commitments on plastic pollution and recycling by eliminating non-recyclables such as plastic straws and polystyrene foam, setting high levels of recycled content and recovery goals for packaging, and ensuring that recyclable packaging waste gets recycled on-site at company restaurants.

As You Sow is asking the parent companies of KFC and Burger King to match the actions of competitors who have already acted. Last year, Starbucks agreed to ban plastic straws by 2020 following an As You Sow proposal with 29 percent support. McDonald’s Corp. agreed to bar polystyrene foam packaging and enact on-site recycling following a 2017 vote with 32 percent support.

“We are seeing a stream of very high votes this year on plastic pollution affirming increasing investor concern about brand risk for discarded packaging that ends up fouling beaches and waterways and potentially harming marine life worldwide,” said As You Sow Senior Vice President Conrad MacKerron. In March, a record high 44 percent of Starbucks shareholders approved an As You Sow proposal asking it to develop aggressive plans to meet packaging reuse and recycling goals.

The votes comes as plastic pollution on land and water has risen dramatically in prominence as an environmental issue. About 8 million tons of plastics end up in oceans annually. Without significant mitigation, by 2050 plastic could exceed fish by weight in oceans. Last year, the European Parliament voted to ban single-use plastics, including straws, cups, and plates.

Recent studies confirm the enormous social and environmental impact of plastic use. Plastic packaging contributes to mismanaged municipal waste in developing countries that spreads disease, resulting in from 400,000 to 1 million deaths annually (up to one death every 30 seconds), according to a study from international relief and development agency Tearfund. The climate impacts of plastic are expected to accelerate dramatically. By 2050, the production and disposal of plastic could generate 56 gigatons of emissions, up to 14 percent of the earth’s entire carbon budget.

For more information on As You Sow’s work on ocean plastics, click here.


As You Sow is a nonprofit organization that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies. Click here to see As You Sow’s shareholder resolution tracker.