Our members filed 23 health resolutions this year, up from last year’s 13. The largest group of these (7 resolutions) focused on equitable access to COVID-19 products, of which 3 called for vaccine technology transfer. Five additional proposals raised pharma companies’ anticompetitive practices, three dealt with the public health impacts of junk food sales and obesity, and two raised concerns regarding tobacco sales. A new group of four resolutions dealt with the public health impacts of antimicrobial resistance.
Access to COVID-19 Products
In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, governments made large investments in global pharma companies to spur the development of breakthrough vaccines and medicine. These same pharma companies have been accused of profiteering amidst a global vaccine shortage and fueling global inequities in vaccine distribution. Investors want to ensure that any medical breakthroughs derived from the public’s contribution will be priced in an accessible way that allows communities of all income levels to benefit equally.
ICCR members refiled resolutions with Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Pfizer, asking them to disclose whether and how their receipt of public financial support for the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics will be taken into account when making access, pricing & voluntary licensing decisions. This resolution was filed for the first time at Moderna.
Pharmaceutical companies frequently engage in a number of anticompetitive practices to prevent competition from generics manufacturers; these include creating unnecessary “patent thickets” around their drugs and engaging in “pay-for-delay” settlements. These activities negatively impact consumers, often resulting in higher prices, decreased access and poorer health outcomes.
Working in conjunction with Investors for Opioid and Pharmaceutical Accountability, investors filed resolutions calling on AbbVie, Eli Lilly, Gilead and Pfizer to report on how they oversee risks related to their anticompetitive practices, including their boards’ roles in public policy activities.
COVID-19 Vaccine Technology Transfer
Even as the world recently passed 5.5 million COVID-19 deaths, global vaccine coverage has remained vastly inequitable, leaving billions of people in low- and middle-income countries vulnerable to the deadly virus, lengthening the duration of the pandemic, and allowing more deadly variants to emerge. In short, vaccine inequity mirrors and entrenches racial and economic inequities that exacerbate the gap between the world’s haves and have nots.
Investors asked Moderna and Pfizer to analyze the feasibility of transferring intellectual property and technical knowledge to manufacturers located in low- and middle-income countries to speed vaccine production.
In addition, Pfizer received a second resolution that asked it to report on the public health costs of protecting COVID-19 vaccine technology.
Public Health Costs of Antimicrobial Resistance
At least 700,000 people die annually from illness due to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) with a projected cumulative cost to the global economy of more than US$80 trillion. Animal agriculture accounts for approximately two-thirds of global antibiotics use and the link between meat production and AMR is well-documented.
ICCR members filed resolutions on this critical topic with Abbott Labs, Hormel Foods, McDonald’s, and Yum! Brands.
Public Health Costs of Food and Beverage Products
A recent report found that food and drink manufacturers, including PepsiCo, have been capitalizing on the COVID-19 pandemic to increase consumption of unhealthful products. The unhealthful foods and beverages that constitute 79 percent of PepsiCo’s product portfolio are among the top culprits in the growing global obesity epidemic.
Investors asked PepsiCo to publish a report on (1) the link between the public-health costs created by its food and beverage business and the company’s prioritization of enterprise risk and (2) the ways in which such costs affect the market returns of its diversified shareholders.
Racial Justice and Food Equity
The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the impacts of structural racism and inequality in the global food system, leading to higher rates of food insecurity and health disparities among communities of color.
Investors asked Costco to report on how it applies its Sustainability Commitment to its core food business to address the links between structural racism, nutrition insecurity and health disparities.