From sticky to sweet at Tractor Supply (and 2018 Proxy Season Wrap-up)

Close up view of the working bees on honey cells

Concerned about bees? We are too. We see the important role they play in supporting a healthy, sustainable food system. Also, we like honey. Last summer, the Clean Yield team discovered that Tractor Supply Company, a chain of box stores that cater to the weekend farmer and backyard gardener, was in a potentially sticky spot. It appeared to be selling products containing bee-killing pesticides called neonicotinoids (“neonics”) while also promoting beekeeping! We worried that selling neonics could sting Tractor Supply’s reputation.
We wrote a letter to the company trying to ascertain if the company was thinking about the risk of selling these products. We did not get a response. Undeterred, we decided to tap into the hive mind of investors engaging with companies around safer chemicals. Our friends at Trillium Asset Management, also shareholders at Tractor Supply, shared our concerns. Together, we filed a proposal at the company in the fall, asking the company to report on the risks of selling pesticide-containing products linked to pollinator decline.
Shortly thereafter, we got a reply. Tractor Supply wanted to discuss the issue. During a call, we learned that the company shared our concerns and had already identified products containing neonics and taken steps to remove them. They were also in the process of surveying their live plant suppliers to determine if neonics were being used on live plants sold by Tractor Supply. After a good discussion, Tractor Supply agreed to update its sustainability report and beekeeping site with information about these measures. We were pleased to see the company move to eliminate neonics from its shelves and supply chain and take steps to educate its customers and investors about this issue. Removing neonics from shelves and live plants helps the bees. Educating its broad customer base on this issue really helps the bees, and potentially our food system. Well done, Tractor Supply!
While this engagement was the bees’ knees in terms of a quick success, not all engagements come up roses in such short order. Sometimes changing corporate behavior takes consistent effort over a period of years. We bee-lieve that our advocacy has meaningful impact, whether it is apparent near-term or years in the future. For a full rundown of our advocacy efforts this year, check out the chart below.

 AlphabetPolitical contributions transparencyWithdrawnCompany strengthened political transparency and accountability.
Discovery CommunicationsSustainability reportWithdrawnCompany has agreed to publish its first sustainability report.
Expeditors InternationalLink CEO pay to sustainability performance21.80%21.8% of shareholders supported our proposal.
Exxon (co-filed with the Unitarian Universalist Association)Political contributions transparencyWithdrawnProposal withdrawn.
FedEx (co-filed with International Brotherhood of Teamsters)Lobbying disclosureTBDTo be determined
Genuine PartsSustainability reportWithdrawnCompany agreed to issue first sustainability report in 2018.
Mastercard (co-filed with Arjuna Capital)Gender pay equityWithdrawnCompany has issued pay equity report and plans to close the gap.
Tractor Supply (co-filed with Trillium Asset Management)Toxics disclosure and beesWithdrawnCompany has eliminated neonics and is reporting on this work.
Walgreens Boots AllianceLink CEO pay to sustainability performanceWithdrawnCompany has included ESG factors among those that can be considered in determining CEO pay.

If you’d like to learn more about any of these engagements, please give us a call or email us.