Coca-Cola Shareholders Vote On Recycling - 'Better Than Expected'

News Release

April 18, 2001


Lance King (703) 536-7282 or (706) 613-7121

Coca-Cola Shareholders Vote On Recycling - 'Better Than Expected'

88.9 million shares voted 'Yes' on recycling means supporters can bring measure back again, according to rules set by U.S. SEC

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE (April 18, 2001) - Investors with 88.9 million shares of Coca-Cola stock, worth more than 4 billion dollars, voted to support a shareholder resolution on recycling at the company's annual meeting today

Supporters of the recycling resolution secured enough support to bring the proposal back again next year, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules governing shareholder proposals.

"We did better than expected. When you combine the yes votes and those who abstained, roughly 10 percent of the votes went against the Coca-Cola management's recommendation opposing the recycling resolution. That's an excellent result for a first vote on any shareholder resolution," said Lance King, speaking on behalf of environmental groups and individual investors supporting the recycling proposal (Item 5) on Coke's agenda.

Conrad MacKerron, representing the Education Foundation of America and Walden Asset Management, co-sponsors of the shareholder resolution, made the presentation in support of the shareholder proposal. The non-binding proposal calls for Coca-Cola to achieve two specific recycling goals by January 1, 2005:

  • Make plastic bottles with 25 percent recycled plastic; and
  • Take steps to achieve an 80 percent recycling rate for Coke bottles and cans.

"Recycling rates for beverages sold by Coca-Cola and its competitors dropped dramatically in recent years, as plastic bottles and other throwaway beverage containers proliferate," said Pat Franklin, a Coke shareholder and executive director of the nonprofit Container Recycling Institute, based in Arlington, Virginia.

Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Douglas Daft made two significant announcements in response to the shareholder proposal on recycling. First, Daft said that Coca-Cola plans to use 10 percent recycled plastic in its bottles by 2005. Second, Daft said Coke is working with a newly formed alliance called BEAR - Businesses and Environmentalists Allied for Recycling.

In a question and answer session, Bill Sheehan of the GrassRoots Recycling Network noted that Coke uses 25 percent recycled plastic in other countries, such as Daft's native Australia, and Sheehan asked "why not in the United States?"

Sheehan also presented a letter in support of the shareholder resolution on recycling, addressed to the Coca-Cola Board of Directors, and signed by 76 investors, public officials, businesses, environmental and community leaders.

Bob Woodall, an Atlanta-shareholder and executive director of Waste Not Georgia, said after the vote: "Unless a financial incentive is established, like the refundable deposits in 10 states with bottle bill laws, Coke will find it difficult or impossible to meet the goal of making plastic bottles with 10 percent recycled plastic."

Institutional investors co-sponsoring the shareholder recycling resolution called on Coca-Cola to stop opposing bottle bills or come up with another method to achieve the 80 percent recycling rate, which is the current average in states with refundable deposits.

"The vote today assures shareholders that recycling will stay on the agenda in discussion with top management at Coca-Cola and can be brought back again next year, if necessary. Coca-Cola is beginning to address the problem," King said.

Pepsi, by contrast, is doing nothing to address these problems and fought unsuccessfully before the SEC to block a similar shareholder recycling proposal, according to the environmental groups. The Pepsi shareholder vote is scheduled May 2 in Dallas, Texas.