“McDonald’s’ Board of Directors … is failing shareholders and stakeholders by presiding over animal welfare violations, supply chain lapses and what I perceive to be a hollow environmental, social and governance (‘ESG’) agenda,” he wrote. “A company’s reluctance to improve policies and verification methods represents a serious risk to a business, its bottom line and the world around us.”
Icahn said he holds only 200 shares in the company, McDonald’s noted at the time.
“While the company looks forward to promoting further collaboration across the industry on this issue, the current pork supply in the US would make this type of commitment impossible,” McDonald’s said.
The letter outlined clear demands, including a commitment to remove the use of gestation crates entirely, from McDonald’s supply chain by the end of next year, among other things.
McDonald’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Icahn’s letter or the proxy filing.
‘Hypocrisy’ on Wall Street
For Icahn, this isn’t just about pigs. His battle of him is also about Wall Street’s overall commitment to sustainable practices.
“I want to shine a light on what may be the biggest hypocrisy of our time,” Icahn wrote. “A large number of Wall Street firms and their bankers and lawyers appear to be capitalizing on ESG to drive profits without doing nearly enough to support tangible societal progress… clearly, the ESG status quo on Wall Street needs to change.”
He added that “if the ESG movement is to be more than a marketing concept and fundraising tool, the massive asset managers who are among McDonald’s’ largest owners must back up their words with actions.”
McDonald’s annual shareholder meeting is scheduled for May 26. It reports earnings next week, on April 28.
— CNN Business’s Julia Horowitz and Alicia Wallace contributed to this report.