Costco Wholesale Corporation: Adopt Antibiotic Phase Out Policy

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WHEREAS: Antibiotic resistance is one of the leading human health threats of our time.

“A post-antibiotic era – in which common infections and minor injuries can kill – far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st Century.”

–World Health Organization (WHO), 2014

Antibiotics are losing effectiveness due in significant part to irresponsible overuse in animal agriculture. The more frequently antibiotics are used, the faster antibiotic-resistant bacteria (superbugs) evolve.  

Over 70% of medically important antibiotics in the U.S. are sold for livestock.[1]The vast majority are used on healthy animals to prevent disease in crowded and unsanitary conditions, rather than treating diagnosed illness.

In November 2017, WHO released guidelines stating that it “strongly recommends… complete restriction of these antibiotics for growth promotion and disease prevention without diagnosis.”[2]

Costco’s valuable brand is founded on strong corporate responsibility.[3]The Kirkland Signature store brand, which accounts for a quarter of annual sales, is committed to being “respectful of the people or animals who produce them… [and] respectful of the environment in the way they are produced.”[4]

Kirkland Signature, however, lacks policies to address antibiotic use in meat and poultry production. This silence jeopardizes Costco’s valuable reputation. 

As consumers grow increasingly concerned, companies that sell chicken are taking action. For instance, the majority of the top 25 restaurant chains in the U.S. have already enacted policies to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use in healthy livestock. Further, all store brand chicken sold by Costco competitor Whole Foods is raised without antibiotics.

Despite pledging in 2015 to prohibit the use of medically important antibiotics in its chicken, Costco has not provided a timeline for action or updated this commitment, nor has it announced antibiotics policies for beef and pork.[5]

Costco’s planned poultry operations in Nebraska, which will process 100 million chickens per year, pose similar reputational risk since Costco has no antibiotic policies for this operation. This plant has already resulted in negative national press[6]and opposition from community groups[7]and national advocacy groups.[8]

Mainstream consumers have increasingly higher expectations for health, sustainability, and overall social responsibility when purchasing food.[9]If Costco does not take meaningful action to minimize the use of medically important antibiotics, the Costco and Kirkland brands are likely to suffer irreparable reputational damage and lose market share to competitors. 

RESOLVED:  Shareholders request that Costco adopt an enterprise-wide policy to phase out the use of medically important antibiotics in its store brand meat and poultry supply chain, with an exception for treatment and non-routine control of diagnosed illness. 

[1]https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-livestock-antibiotics/antibiotics-sales-for-use-in-u-s-farm-animals-dropped-in-2016-fda-idUSKBN1E201D

[2]http://www.who.int/news-room/detail/07-11-2017-stop-using-antibiotics-in-healthy-animals-to-prevent-the-spread-of-antibiotic-resistance

[3]https://www.triplepundit.com/2012/08/costco-genuine-retail-csr-leader/

[4]https://www.costco.com/sustainability-kirkland-signature.html

[5]https://www.reuters.com/article/us-costco-antibiotics/exclusive-costco-working-to-end-use-of-human-antibiotics-in-chicken-idUSKBN0M201520150306

[6]https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/nebraska/articles/2017-08-09/residents-voice-air-quality-fears-for-nebraska-chicken-plant

[7]http://www.ncunited.org/

[8]https://action.organicconsumers.org/o/50865/p/dia/action4/common/public/?action_KEY=21190

[9]https://pighealthtoday.com/eve-disruption-changes-retail-consumer-trends-might-affect-pork-consumption-production/

 

Resolution Details

Company: Costco Wholesale Corporation

Lead Filer: 
As You Sow 

Year: 2019

Filing Date: 
August 2018

Initiative(s): Antibiotics and Factory Farms

Status: Pending

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