Shareholders vote down a resolution MRTI filed with Walgreens
by Shani E. McIlwain | Presbyterian News Service
An action aimed at Walgreens took center stage last week as the Presbyterian Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) continued its efforts to persuade the company to bring its practices in line with Presbyterian policy on the issue of reproductive health access.
MRTI filed a shareholder resolution requesting that Walgreens report to its shareholders on the risks and costs to the company caused by laws concerning reproductive health medications, including mifepristone, and detailing strategies that the company may deploy to mitigate these risks. Investors had the opportunity to vote on the resolution at Walgreens’ annual meeting of shareholders on January 25.
MRTI’s resolution came as a direct result of an action by the 225th General Assembly (2022), at which commissioners voted affirmatively on HSB-03, a resolution from what is now the Advocacy Committee for Women and Gender Justice that directed MRTI to continue its work toward “one of its foundational goals” of advancing women’s rights through shareholder advocacy as part of the Reproductive Health Shareholders Campaign.
According to Katie Carter, the PC(USA)’s Director of Faith-Based Investing and Shareholder Engagement, Walgreens has not been consistent in its policy regarding making these reproductive health products available. Although the company has said it will provide the products in states where it is legal to do so, there are examples of states where those products are legal and yet the company has said they will not make them available.
As to the shareholder resolution, the Walgreens board of directors provided a board recommendation of “no,” stating “that they believe that Walgreens has been and remains clear on its position, which is to dispense mifepristone where it is legal to do so. Furthermore, the Board believes that the report requested is unnecessary and does not enhance stockholder value”. MRTI’s resolution ultimately received only 8% of Walgreens’ shareholder support, meaning that the company will not have to take any action or clarify its position on selling mifepristone.
The Rev. Kerri Allen, MRTI chair, said, “MRTI plays an important role in the shareholder engagement space, especially as a faith-based investor advocating for better reproductive health policies and protections. While we are disappointed in the vote and the company response to our shareholder proposal, we know that raising these issues with companies remains critical.”
MRTI remains committed to advocating for better policies and practices at publicly traded corporations. .
As Carter stated regarding Walgreens, “While shareholders may believe the problem is resolved, that doesn’t change the fact that the company has still not indicated how it intends to manage the risks and uncertainties of a changing legal landscape. We expect that more clarity would be of interest to investors, no matter where they stand on the issue.”
In 2024 and beyond, MRTI plans to stay engaged in the investor campaign and will continue to look for filing opportunities with companies on the issue of reproductive health care.
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