Coca-Cola shareholders know if their coke glass is half-full or half-empty. By that comment I mean they are aware of public concern regarding the safety of Bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical used in the epoxy lining of Coca-Cola’s canned beverages. Yet at the same time, if something isn’t done about it, sales could potentially drop and so would their dividends. So the shareholders voted last week on a measure that will force the company to go public on plans to rid their beverage cans of BPA.
The Coca-Cola company already eliminated BPA from their plastic bottles, but the plastic used to line aluminum cans still contains BPA. Did the company think this measure would satisfy their shareholders and the public, and they would get away with just a bit of BPA? Apparently not. Shareholders say the company has “failed to provide investors or consumers with sufficient evidence that it is taking steps to address these public health concerns”—and 22% of them voted for a resolution asking the company to publish a report on how it is responding to the “public policy challenges” related to BPA and what they’re doing to come up with alternatives for their beverage cans.
Meanwhile, as reported by Business Wire, Coca-Cola’s Board of Directors today approved the quarterly dividend of 44 cents per common share, up from 41 cents. Coca-cola returned $5.3 billion to shareowners in 2009, through $3.8 billion in dividends and $1.5 billion in share repurchases.
BPA is an endocrine disruptor that interrupts hormones and has been linked with breast cancer, prostate cancer, hyperactivity and other metabolic and behavioral problems in lab animals. Even with a number of scientific studies that have detected low-dose effects on animals, plastics and chemicals industries insist its use is safe and accuse critics of misleading the public by referring to industry-funded studies involving animals that have shown no harmful side effects.
It’s no secret that Coca-Cola uses BPA. “We use BPA in the linings of our cans,” said a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola UK. “Our top priority is to ensure the safety and quality of our products and packaging through rigorous standards that meet or exceed government requirements… All available scientific evidence and testing shows that drinks in [beverage cans] are safe.”
Of course Coca-Cola can’t be singled out. BPA is the standard lining material for almost every metal food or beverage can worldwide. But given their humungous profits, you’d think the biggest soft drink company in the world could spend more R&D money on a safer product.
And maybe the public would be more supportive if they come clean with shareholders and tone down their ‘do-good’ message that says the following:
“With an enduring commitment to building sustainable communities, our Company is focused on initiatives that protect the environment, conserve resources and enhance the economic development of the communities where we operate.” Oh yeah, and remember that jingle about summers and picnics and the new generation? Seems their ad campaigns are totally disconnected with reality.
The company proudly boasts that its “consumers in more than 200 countries enjoy the Company’s beverages at a rate of 1.6 billion servings a day.” That’s a whole lot of BPA.