Carl Icahn Pushes McDonald’s to Expand Meatless Options
(Bloomberg) -- Activist investor Carl Icahn argues his two nominees for the board of McDonald’s Corp. will help wean the fast-food chain off its dependence on meat products and address other concerns he has with the company and its supply chain.
The billionaire investor said in a new 65-page presentation that part of his plan to improve the environmental, social and governance issues at McDonald’s includes setting a time line for growing revenue from alternative protein sources. Those goals would then be tied to executive compensation, the company’s marketing and strategy going forward, according the presentation, a copy of which was reviewed by Bloomberg News.
Icahn is seeking to replace two directors on McDonald’s board, claiming the company broke the promise it made him ten years ago to stop using suppliers who house pregnant pigs in small crates. He said the practice is inhumane. McDonald’s disputes Icahn’s assertions and says it’s been a leader in moving the industry away from the practice, and that by 2024 it will have all its supplies from sows that were kept in groups.
Icahn argues in his presentation Wednesday that McDonald’s has been disingenuous with its claims. One of the directors he’s seeking to replace is Sheila Penrose because of her “disappointing track record” as chair of McDonald’s sustainability and corporate responsibility committee, he said. He also drew into question her lack of relevant experience in animal welfare, supply chain and labor practices.
He is also targeting Richard Lenny over a “concerning track record” at Hershey Co. while he was chief executive, when the company allegedly used cocoa harvested by children. Icahn has nominated Maisie Ganzler and Leslie Samuelrich to replace them.
McDonald’s has rejected Icahn’s nominees.
While the current McDonald’s board has the expertise and experience to oversee its long-term priorities, Icahn’s nominees do not, McDonald’s said in a statement Wednesday.
“Icahn’s newfound focus on ESG is a thinly veiled, opportunistic attempt to gain relevancy and media exposure in this current environment, with no regard for McDonald’s stakeholders, its customers or the facts,” McDonald’s said.
In addition to setting a time frame for moving away from meat, Icahn also outlined his plan for the company to address his concerns about animal welfare, climate, food quality and nutrition in the presentation.
More restaurants, including Yum! Brands Inc.’s KFC, are trying out plant-based fare to attract vegetarians and those looking to cut back on meat. But results have been mixed, with some chains moving away from faux animal proteins, and others keeping it as an option.
The presentation also notes that Icahn is in the midst of launching a new platform, known as the Coalition for Corporate Accountability of Animal Welfare and Sustainability, to raise awareness and bring together like-minded individuals and entities that are working towards better accountability and progress on similar issues.
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