By Ross Kerber
BOSTON (Reuters) – One of investor Carl Icahn’s director nominees at McDonald’s Corp said she would push the burger giant to tackle sustainability issues like lowering the environmental impact of farming and lessening antibiotic use.
So far Icahn, the well-known activist investor, has framed his challenge seeking two board seats at McDonald’s mainly over the treatment of pigs by the chain’s suppliers.
But Leslie Samuelrich, president of Green Century Capital Management, said ending the use of gestation crates, as Icahn has urged, would have other benefits like reducing crowded factory farms that cause pollution.
“While we think they’re a strong company, they have some vulnerabilities they’re not recognizing on reputational and governance risks,” Samuelrich said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday.
She said she conveyed her concerns to three McDonald’s directors in a meeting this week, and hopes the company will make her a candidate to be elected to its board later this spring.
A McDonald’s representative declined to comment.
Samuelrich is a well-known voice on corporate environmental issues, including an effort in 2018 that led McDonald’s to agree to restrict the use of antibiotics in its beef supply. Samuelrich said she is concerned McDonald’s has not followed through.
On its website McDonald’s says it is working with partners on responsible antibiotic use and that amid COVID-related delays it is “evolving our plan.” The company also has said https://corporate.mcdonalds.com/corpmcd/en-us/our-stories/article/press-releases.response-carl-icahn.html it would evaluate Icahn’s nominees, and defended its treatment of animals.
Separately, Samuelrich said she supports steps McDonald’s has taken in Russia in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The company’s temporary store closures in Russia are costing it about $50 million a month as it continues to pay staff.
Samuelrich said unless Russian President Vladimir Putin changes course, McDonald’s should consider pulling out of the country entirely.
Doing so would “send a message to the Russian leadership and residents about how Putin’s invasion has been viewed” abroad, she said.
(Reporting by Ross Kerber; Additional reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Andrea Ricci)