People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been long known for taking a stance against companies who abuse animals. They have publicly spoken out against McDonald’s for its mistreatment of the animals raised for meat; SeaWorld for this unethical treatment and captivity of animals; Most recently, even LuluLemon for selling down jackets whose feathers were apparently obtained by plucking them from live birds. However, PETA investments in stocks tell a different story as their recent investments include – McDonald’s, SeaWorld and LuluLemon. But before you pull your hair out and give up on PETA, there’s a very good reason behind their strategy.
Reason Behind PETA’s Investments
So are they investing into everything they stand against? It all lies in regulations within companies. To be eligible to submit a proposal to a company, one needs to have $2,000 in market value in their stock or 1% ownership of the company. In an effort to change company policies and stop them from harming animals, PETA has been gaining minimal ownership to submit proposals and speak out against harmful practices. They have been using this strategy since 1987. While this is not quite “if you can’t beat them, join them”, it is still a very backwards approach to what we’re used to seeing today. However, it makes sense, as companies tend only to listen where there’s money involved at the end of the line.
Corporate affairs specialist for PETA says, “We choose to act as a shareholder only as necessary, if the company is not making forward progress on animal welfare issues”. While customers banding together and boycotting products are often most affective, it doesn’t always work. Companies may still stick to their current practices as those may still produce more profit than changing their ways or even losing that specific customer base.
They first invested in SeaWorld in 2013 and invested in it again in 2014 to maintain the minimum ownership requirements, as shares dipped over 39% since then. While PETA often buys these shares themselves, sometimes they are donated by their members. Just recently, surfer legend Kelly Slater has joined the protests against SeaWorld and submitted a statement on behalf of PETA.
To date, PETA has invested in over 70 companies ranging from food, retail, pharmaceutical and biotechnology. Part of their tactics is to submit graphic descriptions with their questions and resolutions in order to educate the shareholders and the management. This has been a very affective technique according to their representative, Stephanie Shaw, who says they have a long standing shareholder activism with companies like McDonalds.
Why Are Companies Listening?
So why would corporate giants listen to PETA, a organization who has dragged each one of these companies through the mud in the past? Well, partly because they have to. They have to consider each proposal coming in from each qualifying shareholder. Also, because PETA represents a huge community of people whose interests lie in welfare of animals. Companies like Chipotle for example, who recently announced that they are banning GMOs from their ingredients, have seen a surge in their stock prices and profits. Customer perception and giving people what they want can make or break a company. While this “if you want to beat them, join them” approach doesn’t seem overly pleasing, it’s a necessary evil to encourage change from within. As corporations find loopholes to evade taxes, sell harmful ingredients, or abuse animals, the good guys need to find loopholes and creative ways to combat them. Ghandi said it best, “be the change you want to see in the world” and what better way to do it then to step right into the enemy territory and show and guide them to effective solutions.
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