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May 15, 2014

Shareowners Want Dunkin' Brands to Report on Nanomaterials
    by Robert Kropp

A resolution from As You Sow, requesting that the company report on use of nanomaterials in its doughnuts, is supported by 23% of shareowners. -- Last year, As You Sow published Slipping Through the Cracks, an issue brief on the use of nanomaterials in food products. “Nanomaterials have not been proven safe for human consumption, and many have been found to be toxic in animal studies and in vitro studies,” As You Sow reported.

Unfortunately, the survey As You Sow sent to 2,500 corporations received only 26 responses, and many of the respondents did not know if nanomaterials were present in their food products or supply chains.

“It is imperative that companies recognize the risks of using nanomaterials in their products—including risks from lawsuits, reputational risk, and even bans on the technology,” the issue brief stated. “To avoid these potential pitfalls, any movement toward use of nanomaterials in food should be undertaken with deliberation, knowledge, comprehensive safety testing, and full transparency to consumers and shareholders.”

Investors were advised to encourage companies to adopt transparency in disclosing the use of nanomaterials, and to call for the labeling of food and packaging that use them.

When companies are unwilling or unable to provide transparency on issues relating to public health, shareowner resolutions often follow, and As You Sow has been filing on the issue of nanomaterials since 2009. Resolutions filed in past years, with McDonald's and Kraft Foods, were withdrawn.

The first such resolution came to a vote this year, at Dunkin' Brands, where 23% of shareowners representing $547 million in assets under management supported the As You Sow resolution calling on the company to report on the use of titanium dioxide nanoparticles in its white powdered doughnuts.

A UCLA study found that ingesting titanium dioxide nanoparticles causes genetic damage and inflammatory response in mice.

The resolution further called on Dunkin' Brands “to identify products or packaging that currently contains nanomaterials, and discuss any actions management is taking to reduce or eliminate risk associated with human health and environmental impacts.”

“Using technology before it is proven safe exposes the company to the risk of future litigation, as well as consumer backlash,” As You Sow President Danielle Fugere said.

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