Walgreens Moves to Take Tobacco Sales Off 2017 Agenda

DEERFIELD, Ill. — It's anyone's guess regarding if a proposal to stop selling tobacco products at Walgreens locations makes the agenda at the company's annual shareholder meeting in January.

Shareholders of Walgreens Boots Alliance and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility have been notified by legal representatives of the company that Walgreens is seeking to have their proposal omitted from the company's 2017 proxy statement.

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility is a coalition of shareholder advocates who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for social change,

As CSNews Onlinepreviously reported, last month members of the two groups filed a shareholder proposal requesting that the board of directors review the risks of tobacco sales in Walgreens pharmacies. 

A separate resolution requesting disclosure of lobbying expenditures was also filed.

The proponents of the resolution, the Sister of St. Francis of Philadelphia along with other faith-based investors, argue that the sale of tobacco products sets up a conflict that exposes Walgreens to financial risks that may undermine shareholder value.

"In our conversations with the company over the last six years, we thought management understood the inherent hypocrisy of a self-identified health care company selling a known lethal agent. We were given several indications over the years that they would be discontinuing the sale of tobacco and are frankly somewhat mystified as to why it hasn't happened yet," said lead filer Tom McCaney of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia

"The resolution is our attempt to have a more focused conversation and invite all shareholders to weigh in on a topic we believe cuts to the heart of the company's mission and is, therefore, material to its investors. This effort to shut down that open discussion by blocking a vote at the annual meeting is very discouraging, to say the least," he added.

The investors intend to appeal the challenge at the SEC and will look to have the resolution placed on the company ballot at the annual shareholder meeting on Jan. 26.

Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens operates 8,173 drugstores with a presence in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.