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September 24, 2013 / Elizabeth

Update from General Mills’ shareholder meeting: A long way to go.

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“GMOs are safe and poised to feed the world,” shared General Mills’ CEO Ken Powell at the company’s annual shareholder meeting this morning in Minneapolis.  We hope that Mr. Powell is be prepared to eat his words soon.  

The executive’s tune has not changed over the past few months in spite of growing consumer concern about GMOs, not only related to health impacts but also due to the fact that GM crops have failed to deliver higher yields have in many cases required more pesticides than conventional farming.  Additionally, rather than feeding the world’s hungry GM farming has led to poorer condition for farmers in the US and abroad.

This morning, Green America’s campaigns director Liz O’Connell and Paula Luxenberg (former Green America staff member) represented Green America and  GMO Insiders at General Mills’ annual meeting for stockholders.

Harriett Crosby of As You Sow was also in the crowd to voice shareholder concerns about GMOs  We asked questions to the board regarding GMO labeling and the company’s increasing reputational risk by ignoring consumer concerns about GMOs.

Roughly 85% of shareholders, representing 543 million shares, sent in proxies to General Mills to vote on the company’s 2014 resolutions.  Two questions were asked relating to GMOs and Powell had artfully crafted answers on-hand to confuse the audience and demonstrate General Mills’ false commitment to consumer choice and safety.

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Based on the presentation made this morning and the answers given by executives, its clear General Mills is no better than the worst in the industry when it comes to labeling GMOs and phasing them out of the food supply. 

The company sites short-term, non-independent studies to prove the safety of GMOs, in spite of the fact that there is a growing body of scientific research that points otherwise and that some countries such as Austria, Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Bolivia, and New Zealand have flat out banned the cultivation and sale GMOs.  When it comes to labeling, General Mills said they strongly support a national labeling initiative that would allow non-GM products to voluntarily adapt labels showing they are so.  (This also passes the hassle of adopting a labeling  system on to farmers and companies who are making “real” apples, corn etc., while still not providing consumers with the knowledge of what products DO contain GMOs.)

GMO Inside began targeting General Mills in late 2012, calling for an elimination of GMOs in time and labeling of GMOs in the meantime.  Based on the statements shared this morning its clear we could not have picked a more worthy target.

Now, with the support of GMO Insiders, we will up the pressure.  The time for non-GMO Cheerios is now!

Please support Green America’s campaign  and sign up for updates from us to be in  the loop about how you can take action!

September 21, 2013 / Andrew

#GreenFest: A Higher Calling for our Fair Trade Clothing Panel

When Elizabeth O’Connell, Green America’s campaigns director, invited Claire Wickland of Alta Gracia and Megan McManus of Amani DC to speak on the ethical apparel panel at the DC Green Festival, she didn’t realize one key commonality embedded in the names of their organizations.  “Alta Gracia,” it turns out, means “high grace,” in Spanish, while “Amani Ya Juu” (parent organization of Amani DC) means “a higher peace” in Swahili.  It makes sense, once you know the missions of the organizations involved. Read more…

September 21, 2013 / Andrew

#GreenFest: Food for Thought from our GMO Panel

Lots of great wisdom shared today at the DC Green Festival on the topic of GMOs.   Our expert panel included Alisa Gravitz, president of Green America; Adam Eidinger, organizer of Occupy Monsanto and the Mintwood Media Collective; Gail Taylor, a DC farmer with the Three Part Harmony Farm; and Zachari Curtis, a DC farmer with the Good Sense Farm & Apiary.   Just a compressed sampling and paraphrasing below of the panel discussion, with a top-five action list from Alisa Gravitz to round out this post:

Alisa – Food is life.  Food is sacred.  We are rapidly losing our ability to know what is in the food that we eat to sustain our bodies and lives.  The good news is that the GMO issue brings people together across boundaries.  For example, in Mexico, and in South and Central America, traditional cultures that highly value corn as a dietary staple are horrified to see corn being genetically modified.  Over the last 15 years, we went from 0 to 90 percent of certain crops being modified.  Over the next 15 years, we must go from 90 to 0 percent, and we can. Read more…

September 21, 2013 / Andrew

#GreenFest: 5 Things I Learned from “Gearin’ Up Bicycles”

At today’s DC Green Festival, Katie Lupo of Gearin’ Up Bicycles in Washington, DC came prepared with a fun game of bicycle “Jeopardy” with categories like “Bike Maintenance and Repair,” and “DC Bike Laws.”  Long-time DC bicycle commuters and newbie cyclists alike learned something new.   As a bicycle commuter for the last 10 years in DC, here were my top five takeaways:

1)    Remember to safety check your headset and bottom bracket:  The headset is the part of your bicycle where the handlebars connect with the front fork.   If these become too loose, you could lose control of your bicycle on a rapid descent.  Test for fastness of the headset by squeezing your brakes and trying to rock your bicycle back to front.  If the front wheel rocks, you need to tighten your headset.   Same with the bottom bracket, which is where your crank connects to the bicycle.  Try to move your pedals back and forth to the bicycle, and if there’s give, the bracket needs to be tightened. Read more…

September 21, 2013 / Martha

#GreenFest Snapshot: The Wonder of Aluminum Tabs

So, how many things can be made with aluminum tabs? Stop by Ten Fold Trade at the Washington DC Green Festival and see:

Learn more at tenfoldfairtrade.com/

September 21, 2013 / Martha

#GreenFest Business Snapshot: JUST Designs

Company Name: JUST Designs

Vests ($55) and bags ($30) are two big favorites.

Vests ($55) and bags ($30) are two big favorites.

Mission: We’re a non-profit and in addition to paying the artisans a living wage, we have health, nutrition and finance programs in the villages we work with. We’re also Fair Trade certified.

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Hand-made bags ($30) in all colors.

Bestseller: The hand-made bags ($30) are very popular.

Personal favorite: We love the vests ($55)! We love seeing traditional textiles meet modern designs.

Favorite thing about Green Festival: Personally, this is our first time at Green Festival. At other events, people will be surprised that we’re charging $55 for a vest and will assume we’re making a lot of money off sweatshop labor. No one has suggested that to us here — people at Green Festival understand what Fair Trade is. They are willing to pay a little more to make sure the people who make their clothes are paid a living wage.

Find out more at justafairtrade.org

September 21, 2013 / Martha

#GreenFest Business Snapshot: Evolve Skin Products

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Company Name: Evolve Skin Products
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How did you get started? Once I had my son, I was looking for products that were good for him, so I started making my own! We shouldn’t be attacking our bodies with chemicals.
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Evolve Skin Products’ Biodegradable Deodorant ($7.50)

Bestseller: My biodegradable deodorant ($7.50) — it really works! Everyone I know is using it. It’s got five ingredients, no aluminum, isn’t tested on animals and is vegan.  It’s also made locally here in Washington DC.

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Personal favorite: The deodorant again!

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Learn more at evolveskinproducts.com

September 21, 2013 / Martha

#GreenFest Business Snapshot: Upcycle Joy

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Brand new product: the antique photo scarf

Company Name: Upcycle Joy

Bestseller: The scarves with ties and suspenders appliqued onto them ($45 – $55).

How did you get started? I’ve always been a thrift shopper. Then I learned to sew and started changing my outfits. Friends asked me, ‘why don’t you sell these things?’

Personal favorite: I’ve just started making photo scarves — I’m going to start selling them soon.

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Close-up of the photo scarf

Favorite thing about Green Festival: This is my first time showing my business. I’ve come before as an attendee. Love it!

Learn more at upcyclejoy.com

September 21, 2013 / Martha

#GreenFest Business Snapshot: RNR Threads

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Founder & CEO Courtney “Peach” McGeachy poses with the Karma Crewneck ($48) at the Washington, DC Green Festival.

Company Name: RNR Threads

Mission: “An environmentally conscious apparel and accessories brand.”

Why Green? “I studied environmental science in school and am really into fashion. I realized that the dyes and materials that made the things I love weren’t actually good for the environment. I decided to start making my own clothes — then other people started asking me to make things for them. That’s how we got started.

Bestseller: Our Karma Crewneck (48$) — aboveIMG_5492

Personal favorite: I’m partial to the eco v-neck ($30). I designed the tree logo so it will always have a special place in my heart.

Close-up of the RNR eco v-neck ($30), Courtney’s personal favorite.

Favorite thing about Green Festival: Meeting other like-minded people!

Find out more at rnrthreads.com

September 3, 2013 / franteplitz

Shareholder Support for Social & Environmental Issues Grows

socially responsible investingGood news on the shareholder education and action front! As reported in August, shareholder votes in favor of social and environmental resolutions in the 2013 proxy season marked a ten-year high, receiving 21% support on average. These resolutions constituted a third of all the resolutions filed; the remaining two-thirds addressed corporate governance issues.

The 21% support for social and environmental resolutions, which usually receive less support than corporate governance resolutions, is important to correcting corporate conduct. In order to be resubmitted for consideration by shareholders in the following year, resolutions need to receive at least 3% support in their first year, at least 6% in their second year, and at least 10% in their third year of facing a vote. Current vote trends bode very well for keeping crucial social and environmental issues in front of investors and in front of corporate management. Indeed, there were fourteen social and environmental resolutions that received at least 40% support in the 2013 shareholder season – including proposals addressing carbon pollution and energy efficiency.

Green America’s Shareholder Resolution Focus Lists highlighted a wide range of resolutions, including votes on energy and climate-related issues, banking, GMOs, toxics, human rights, corporate lobbying, and other investor concerns. The chart above shows how many of the resolutions we highlighted ultimately came to a vote. Resolutions that were withdrawn represent progress in the dialogue process that generally precedes the filing of a resolution. If the resolution filer believes the company is making moves in the right direction, the filer may withdraw the resolution for now, and see whether progress at the company continues.

If you own direct company stock that makes you a part owner of that company. Vote your proxies each year to alert management to your concerns and to push the company toward better practices. The main proxy season is in the spring – Green America will remind you and will bring key votes to your attention!

Thanks to the Sustainable Investments Institute for the chart on Green America’s Shareholder Resolution Focus List. 

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