Welcome from our CEO

Wow! What a year it’s been! It’s always exhilarating to negotiate with corporations and stand tall in their annual meetings — and watch these same corporations change from the inside out. That’s the best part of my job, but honestly, this year was truly powerful.

At As You Sow, we get big corporations to make big changes, to protect your health and environment. This year we filed 35 shareholder resolutions with 33 companies, seeking real change on a range of issues from climate change to human health to outrageous corporate pay. Shareholders voted with us to the tune of nearly $387 billion in shareholder value! Together, these votes and that support push corporations toward a cleaner, healthier, more just future.

This year we moved some giants:

  • Abbott Laboratories, after three years of engagement by As You Sow, agreed to offer a GMO-free version of its top-selling Similac Infant Formula, and it’s in stores now
  • Dunkin’ Donuts committed to removing the nanomaterial titanium dioxide from its powdered sugar doughnuts, avoiding the potential health harms from these microscopically small particles
  • Disney committed not to show images of smoking in its youth-rated movies
  • General Mills became the first major packaged foods company to agree to implement policies protecting bees and other pollinators from the impacts of pesticides
  • We asked ExxonMobil and Chevron to leave the oil in the ground and return dividends to shareholders instead of wasting billions chasing high risk, high carbon oil that can’t be burned without catastrophic human and environmental consequences

We back up our shareholder work with ground-breaking research. This year, our reports on the 100 most overpaid CEOs, on packaging sustainability, and on green bonds for municipal energy, water, and transportation infrastructure received wide acclaim and the most downloads in our 23 year history.

We published our annual flagship publication, Proxy Preview, and its companion Proxy Voting Guidelines. Disclosing the Facts, our popular fracking scorecard, is due out before the end of this year.

We exposed heavy metals, like lead and cadmium, lurking in chocolate, seaweed, and protein powders through our legal and media work and demanded companies reformulate or label their products.

This year, we teamed up with Morningstar, one of the most trustworthy research and analytical firms on Wall Street, to shine a light on the fossil fuels hidden in mutual funds. If you own mutual funds, you probably own fossil fuels, and you probably don’t know it. Fossil Free Funds shows you what fossil fuel stocks are hiding in the most common mutual funds, so you can know what you own and find cleaner, greener alternatives. You can find it at www.fossilfreefunds.org — take a look, and join us in the transition to a clean energy future.

As exciting as all this is, it’s nothing compared to the plans we have for next year!

We’re particularly excited about Exxon and Chevron. Oil executives get bonuses based on how much oil they discover, which is why it’s difficult to get them to stop exploring for more oil. We’re going to propose that instead of barrels of oil, oil execs are judged in units of energy — so that wind, solar, and other renewables count. These resolutions could be a real game-changer in reforming incentives and allowing Wall Street to value fossil fuel companies that are figuring out how to evolve into energy companies and lead a clean energy future.

Thank you for your continued support of As You Sow as we make the protection of your health and the environment a central part of corporate decision making. Please feel free to share this with your networks and connect with us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.

Click here to view the print version of this newsletter as a PDF.

Thank you for your support.


Andrew BeharAndrew Behar

Andrew Behar, CEO

Exposing Fossil Fuel Stocks Hidden in Mutual Funds


Fossil Free Funds allows you to look up mutual funds and see how much of the fund’s assets are invested in fossil fuel stocks.

As investors look to protect themselves from the economic risks of climate change, fossil-free investing continues to boom. To date, more than 50,000 individuals have signed the Divest-Invest pledge to rid their portfolios of risky fossil fuel stocks.

But before you can divest, you have to know what you own. If you are invested in mutual funds or have an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k), it’s nearly impossible to know what companies are inside the funds you’re invested in. If you don’t know what you own, how can you fulfill your divestment pledge to own what you own?

That’s where Fossil Free Funds comes in. We decided it was time for people who aren’t financial experts to know how much of their money was invested in unsustainable risky fossil fuel stocks. Fossil Free Funds is a search platform that enables users to look up mutual funds and see the fossil fuel extraction companies, service industries, pipeline companies, and fossil-fired utilities lurking inside.

Using financial data provided by Morningstar and Fossil Free Indexes, the web tool uses standard industry classifications to screen mutual fund holdings for fossil fuel companies, including The Carbon Underground 200™ which tracks the top 100 coal and 100 oil/gas carbon reserve holders. With just a few clicks you can also see if your funds hold fossil-fired utilities, fracking companies, or companies building infrastructure to support the fossil fuel industry. And when you’re ready for a change, you can use Fossil Free Funds to find clean, green funds as alternative investments.

Work is underway to expand Fossil Free Funds into Hong Kong and the U.K. We’re also working with partners to integrate more data, including comprehensive carbon footprinting and performance analysis. With Fossil Free Funds, you can finally know what you own so you can own what you own.

Visit www.fossilfreefunds.org today to get started greening your investments!

Toxic Lead and Cadmium Found in Popular Chocolates


We found toxic metals like lead and cadmium in popular chocolate products.

If you have a sweet tooth, you may have read studies talking about the health benefits associated with eating moderate amounts of chocolate. But our research has found a health risk in popular chocolate products that’s been flying under the radar – some contain toxic metals like lead and cadmium in amounts that exceed California’s safe harbor levels.

After testing at an independent laboratory, commissioned by As You Sow, found toxic heavy metals in popular chocolate products, we filed legal notices with 16 manufacturers, including Hershey’s and Ghirardelli. The notices alleged the companies are failing to notify consumers that the products contain cadmium and lead in levels exceeding the safe harbor threshold of California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. We tested 42 chocolate products and uncovered lead and/or cadmium above the threshold levels in 26 of the products. See the list of chocolate products tested at www.asyousow.org/chocolate.

Lead and cadmium are heavy metals that can be harmful to health. Lead consumption can cause a variety of neurological impairments, like learning disabilities, seizures, and a lowered IQ. Children are especially vulnerable to lead exposure because their brains are in critical growth and development stages. Cadmium can cause damage to the kidney, liver, and bones, while also impairing neurobehavioral development.

The negative brand reputation that comes from failing to inform the public about these toxic metals creates risk for investors. “Nobody expects heavy metals in their chocolate,” said Andrew Behar, As You Sow CEO. “We hope these companies will take action to protect consumers and to reduce the company’s own risk.” As You Sow continues to work with the companies to either reduce or eliminate the heavy metals in their products, or provide the warnings required by law. 

Shareholders Support Climate Action at Utilities


Shareholders are encouraging utilities to take stronger steps to address climate change.

As the economic risks of climate change become more urgent, investors have continued to show strong support for shareholder resolutions asking utilities to address carbon pollution.

This year, our Energy program filed resolutions calling for CO2 reduction goals at Southern Company, FirstEnergy, and Great Plains Energy – utilities that have some of the highest levels of coal-fired power and carbon emissions in the country. The resolutions emphasized that companies with significant carbon pollution will likely face increased costs and will quickly have to meet new climate-related air standards. “Renewable energy prices have fallen dramatically, and it’s become a cost effective alternative to coal power,” noted Amelia Timbers, Energy Program Manager.

Shareholders representing $8 billion in shares endorsed our efforts to reduce utility emissions. As renewable energy becomes increasingly more competitive against coal-based power, customers seek to install cost-effective renewables themselves, and more climate change regulations are passed, it is becoming clear to investors that utilities that do not change their approach will lose revenue, and as they must maintain transmission lines that keep the same costs, they may be risky investments.

In the Southwest, our resolution seeking political spending transparency at Pinnacle West (owner of Arizona Public Service, Arizona’s largest utility) received 30.8% of shareholders’ votes. Pinnacle West has been embroiled in widespread controversy over its 2013 lobbying for a law that would thwart solar adoption by putting a surcharge on homeowners installing rooftop solar. “The message from the vote is clear; investors don’t believe that political spending benefits the company, and they want transparency around the company’s political spending activities,” commented Timbers.

New Focus on Antibiotics and Pesticides in Food


One of our new Environmental Health initiatives aims to protect bees and other pollinators.

The overuse of pesticides and antibiotics in food production can lead to serious consequences. Now, new initiatives at As You Sow are taking steps to make sure companies hear consumer concerns.

The Bee and Pollinator Protection initiative is working with companies to safeguard these critical insect populations. Pollinators are necessary for fruits, vegetables, and most the food we eat – without them, the agricultural industry would collapse. Unfortunately, misguided applications of pesticides commonly known as neonicotinoids or “neonics” are contributing to what has been called “hive collapse” and the rapid decline of bee colonies, with potentially devastating effects to agriculture.

After engagement with As You Sow, Trillium Asset Management, and Clean Yield Asset Management, General Mills became the first major packaged foods company to pledge to protect pollinators from the harmful impacts of pesticides. “Many of the crops that General Mills buys depend on pollinators. By investing in supply-chain sustainability, the company is ensuring the future of its supply chain and its profitability,” said Austin Wilson, Environmental Health Program Manager.

There is also a growing public health crisis stemming from the misuse of antibiotics, leading us to form the Antibiotics and Factory Farms initiative. The overwhelming majority of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on livestock, and it’s causing a rise in “superbugs,” or antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In the U.S., antibiotic-resistant infections cause over 2,000,000 illnesses and 23,000 deaths each year, costing society between $55 billion to $70 billion each year. As You Sow is now engaging with Hormel, producer of Spam, Stagg Chili, and Jennie-O turkey, to address these critical issues.

Visit www.asyousow.org/e-health to learn more about how we are working to create a more just and sustainable food system.

Carbon Asset Risk


Shareholders are asking energy companies to acknowledge the risk that their carbon assets may be stranded.

For the past three years, As You Sow has been working to make sure that investors and markets understand the growing risk of investing in oil companies that pour billions of dollars into developing more fossil fuel reserves – reserves that cannot be burned without causing enormous damage to our climate. While many investors still cling to timeworn narratives about cyclical markets and the long-term value of oil companies, we’re working to make sure both Wall Street and Main Street are paying attention to climate change and its potential for creating “stranded assets.”

Global governments agree that to have a chance at avoiding the most catastrophic consequences of global warming, world temperature rise must be kept below 2 degrees Celsius. To achieve this, over two-thirds of current fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground. If we can’t burn existing reserves without harm, why are companies investing billions of investor capital in finding even more reserves?

As You Sow has been working with shareowners in asking this important question. In 2013, along with Arjuna Capital, we pressed Exxon for a report on stranded assets that exposed their lack of carbon-constrained planning to the world. In 2014, we demanded that Chevron return capital to shareholders rather than investing it in stranding more oil and gas reserves. This year, we are presenting an innovative resolution that will enable oil majors to count renewables – instead of just oil and gas – as reserves, giving companies incentive to transition to a clean energy future.

Waste Program Engages Big Pharma for Drug Take Back


Shareholders are asking energy companies to acknowledge the risk that their carbon assets may be stranded.

As prescription drug abuse continues to present a serious public health risk, our Waste program is unveiling a new initiative pressing pharmaceutical companies to take responsibility for safe disposal of unused and expired prescription drugs and accessories like needles and syringes.

More Americans die from drug overdoses than from car crashes each year. In 2013, overdoses from prescription pain medications killed 16,000 Americans. President Obama recently prioritized this issue, saying, “Most young people who begin misusing prescription drugs don’t buy them in some dark alley – they get them from the medicine cabinet.” Because no convenient disposal options exist and flushing drugs down the toilet is no longer recommended by authorities, many consumers hold onto drugs they no longer need, making them available for abuse by others.

Lack of convenient disposal programs has been linked to poisoning of children and pets; misuse by teenagers and adults; seniors’ health problems from accidentally taking the wrong or expired medicine; water pollution from flushed medications; and threats to sanitation workers handling improperly disposed needles. It’s time for this growing public health concern to be addressed.

Major pharmaceutical companies should be paying for the safe disposal of drugs they put onto the market, but so far they’ve refused to do so. When Alameda County in California developed a take-back program that required drug makers to pay for it, pharmaceutical companies sued the county. They eventually lost, but have continued to stall on developing and financing a national take-back program.

We have started to engage three large drug makers, AbbVie (a spinoff of Abbott Laboratories), Johnson & Johnson, and Merck, and have already filed the first shareholder proposals on this topic for the coming proxy season. To learn more about this work, visit www.asyousow.org/pharmaceuticals.

Conflict Minerals Reporting in Year Two


Shareholders are asking energy companies to acknowledge the risk that their carbon assets may be stranded.

Conflict in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to devastate vulnerable communities. Fortunately, awareness, transparency, and collaboration are increasing as companies and investors respond to public pressure and legislation. Now, a new report from Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN), a project of As You Sow, shines a light on company efforts to ensure their supply chains are free of conflict minerals.

Mining the Disclosures 2015: An Investor Guide to Conflict Minerals Reporting in Year Two analyzes companies’ conflict minerals disclosures under Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act. Co-authored by Andrew Arriaga and Patricia Jurewicz of RSN, the report takes a look at how this ground-breaking legislation requires publicly-traded companies to trace the minerals in their products and determine whether they are contributing to violence in and around the DRC.

The legislation provides a path toward supply chain transparency for tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold (also known as “3TG” minerals) and outlines how companies need to identify and address human rights risks. The report highlights companies encouraging conflict-free sourcing from the DRC region, as well as those that are embargoing the region rather than performing their due diligence.

By scoring and rating companies on 20 key indicators related to their activities and public reporting, Mining the Disclosures promotes transparency, recognizes leaders, and holds laggards accountable. A total of 155 companies across 20 different high-exposure industry groups were ranked alongside their industry peers. Companies reviewed include leaders like Intel, Philips, Apple, and Qualcomm, as well as laggards like Amazon, Ralph Lauren, and Whirlpool.

With major investors lauding RSN’s analysis as an authoritative guide to companies’ conflict minerals performance, Mining the Disclosures 2015 highlights leading practices and acknowledges potential obstacles. To learn more or download the report, visit www.sourcingnetwork.org/mining-the-disclosures.

Nanomaterials in our Food?


After engaging with As You Sow, Dunkin’ Donuts agreed to remove titanium dioxide, a common source of nanomaterials, from their powdered sugar.

Healthy, safe food is a basic human right. That’s why As You Sow is constantly working to protect human health by engaging companies responsible for what is in our food.

A potentially harmful ingredient now being used by the food industry are nanomaterials, which consist of microscopic, engineered particles that can pass through cell membranes and go places in the body normal ingredients cannot. Nanoparticles are increasingly used in foods as coloring, preservatives, and flavorings.

Yet nanoparticles are being used before they have been proven safe. Preliminary studies show that when eaten, engineered nanomaterials can cause DNA and chromosomal damage, organ damage, inflammation, brain damage, and genital malformations, among other harms. Until manufacturers can prove that nanoparticles are safe, they should not be used in our foods.

That is the message we took to Dunkin Donuts, which was using nano-titanium dioxide, a metal used to whiten foods, in its donuts. After two years of filing resolutions at Dunkin’ and working with the company to find alternatives, Dunkin’ agreed in May to remove titanium dioxide from the powdered sugar it uses to make donuts. “This is a groundbreaking decision. Dunkin’ has demonstrated strong industry leadership by removing this potentially harmful ingredient from its donuts,” said Danielle Fugere, President and Chief Counsel of As You Sow.

As a result of our work and growing consumer concern about nanomaterials in foods, Krispy Kreme and Starbucks have also communicated to us their intention to remove nano-titanium dioxide across their food lines. We are now working with other major food brands to transform their policies on risky nanomaterials. Stay tuned at www.asyousow.org/nanomaterials.

2015 Annual Recap

In 2015, As You Sow engaged dozens of companies asking for increased responsibility on environmental and social issues by corporate boards and management. We filed 35 shareholder resolutions, the most resolutions we’ve ever filed! Some highlights of our program accomplishments are listed below:


  1. Our resolutions at Southern Company, FirstEnergy and Great Plains Energy to adopt time-bound CO2 reduction goals received high levels of shareholder support. Our resolution at FirstEnergy received support from 19.4% of voting shares, while our resolution at Southern received support from 22.1% of voting share, representing over $7. The resolution at Great Plains Energy received a vote of 33.8% in support.
  2. Our resolution at Pinnacle West seeking political spending disclosure for lobbying received 30.8% of shareholders’ support, representing over a billion dollars in shares.
  3. Our resolutions at Shell and BP, co-filed with over 100 other shareholders, asked the companies to improve on a number of key climate issues, including carbon emissions, renewable energy investments, and an end to CEO bonus programs that encourage anti-climate corporate actions. These resolutions received an unheard of level of shareholder support, with support reaching 98% at Shell and 99% at BP. Both resolutions require Shell and BP to include robust reporting of their companies’ climate performance in their annual reports.
  4. The second edition of Disclosing the Facts was released in late 2014, analyzing top fracking companies on 35 key performance indicators. Many companies’ scores improved over the first year as investor pressure demanding disclosure ratcheted up. We accompanied this report with continued shareholder actions at Chevron and Exxon. The next edition is due out in December 2015.


  1. After three years of As You Sow engaging and filing shareholder resolutions with Abbott Laboratories, the company finally announced a non-GMO version of its market-leading Similac baby formula.
  2. Our second-year nanoparticles shareholder resolution with Dunkin’ Donuts resulted in Dunkin’ publicly agreeing to remove titanium dioxide, a whitening substance that contains nanoparticles, from its powdered sugar donuts.
  3. After engagement with As You Sow, Trillium Asset Management, and Clean Yield Asset Management, General Mills became the first major packaged foods company to create a policy to protect pollinators from the harmful impacts of pesticides, including neonicotinoids (“neonics”).
  4. This year, Walt Disney announced an industry-leading decision to prohibit smoking imagery in youth-rated films produced by the company. The U.S. Surgeon General reported that, if the entire industry limited portrayals of smoking to R-rated films, over 1,000,000 children alive today would be saved.


  1. Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN), a project of As You Sow, published Mining the Disclosures 2015, a report that analyzes and ranks 155 companies’ conflict minerals activities and filings under section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act.
  2. RSN joined the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), which consists of over 150 global companies such as Adidas, H&M, and Target, as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academic institutions. SAC promotes sustainability throughout apparel and footwear supply chains by systematizing the impacts of production using the Higg Index.
  3. RSN Director, Patricia Jurewicz, published “Reducing Child Labor in Uzbekistan: Lessons Learned and Next Steps” in the UC Davis Journal of International Law and Policy, Volume 21. This article explores the strategies used by RSN and various stakeholders to almost entirely eliminate forced labor in the cotton fields for children ages 7-15.
  4. RSN worked with European NGOs, MADE-BY, and Solidaridad, to conduct a Feasibility Study of its new spinner engagement effort called Yarn Ethically and Sustainably Sourced (YESS). RSN is now assembling a multi-stakeholder working group to develop the engagement and assessment strategy.


  1. To provide transparency for the investments of millions of Americans, As You Sow launched Fossil Free Funds, a web tool that provides investors vital information about the risky fossil fuel stocks that may be hiding within their mutual funds.
  2. After releasing The 100 Most Overpaid CEOs, a report that looks at the executive compensation packages at S&P 500 companies, we followed many of those companies as they released new proxy data. Our blog at ceopay.asyousow.org highlighted specific companies as well as analyses of new rules adopted at the SEC.


  1. We are excited to launch a new initiative encouraging pharmaceutical companies to assume responsibility for safe disposal of prescription drugs that are unused or expired. As You Sow has begun to engage with three major drug companies: AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck.
  2. As You Sow partnered with the Natural Resources Defense Council to produce Waste and Opportunity 2015, an in-depth analysis of packaging sustainability policies at over 45 beverage companies and fast food chains, which identified leaders and laggards in the fast food, packaged food, and grocery industries. New engagements with Burger King, Chipotle and Nestle USA are under way based on their lagging performance in the report.
  3. Shareholder support was abundant for our waste proposals, with four proposals getting nearly 30% support for consumer packaging issues: Kraft Foods, Kroger, Mondelez International, and Dr Pepper Snapple.