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Bellevue, WA / Washington, D.C. - Today at 4 PM Pacific time, at the annual meeting of Costco shareholders in Bellevue, Washington, the National Center for Public Policy Research plans to question Costco's CEO Craig Jelinek about the retail giant's push for a radical green agenda that lacks consumer support.
Costco is a member of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), one of the country's largest trade organizations. RILA is engaged in a massive effort to impose "sustainability" standards on member companies and suppliers that require these companies to undertake expensive capital expenditures, restrict the use of the property they own and even to lobby local governments for more restrictive building codes.
RILA also requires member businesses to follow a top-down sustainability plan that will adversely affect manufacturers and suppliers. This aspect of RILA's sustainability scheme is likely to entail costly changes to manufacturing standards that will impede small businesses and raise the cost of consumer products.
"Congress and President Barack Obama just raised taxes on working-class Americans, unemployment and underemployment remain historically high and household wealth is being destroyed more and more every day. Now, Costco and RILA are asking consumers to pay more to fund an absurd environmental folly. The company's leadership is sorely out of touch with the American people," said Justin Danhof, Esq., Director of the National Center's Free Enterprise Project.
As an example of Costco's disconnect with American consumers, Costco co-founder and former CEO Jim Sinegal, currently a Costco board member, embraced President Obama's push for higher taxes during a primetime speech at the Democratic National Convention last September. Sinegal's claim that big businesses want to support big government proved hypocritical after Costco's board of directors voted last December to borrow $3.5 billion to finance a $3 billion dividend payout in 2012, thereby avoiding the higher capital gains rates set to go into effect this January. One of the biggest beneficiaries of the move was Sinegal. According to the Wall Street Journal, the move grossed Sinegal $14 million and saved him about $4 million in taxes.
"Just as Costco's former CEO talked the talk but didn't walk the walk, it seems that current Costco CEO Craig Jelinek is also seeking to push progressive policies without having to pick up the tab. Savvy consumers aren't buying policies that raise their bills, but Costco customers are going to be forced to pay higher costs at a retailer that is supposed to be known for bargains," added Danhof.
Danhof plans to present Mr. Jelinek with the results of a nationwide survey commissioned by the National Center this month that clearly shows American consumers want no part of RILA's extreme environmental agenda.
"More than half – exactly 52 percent – of those surveyed said they would not spend a single penny more for retail products so that retailers such as Costco could meet so-called sustainability standards. Additionally, 56 percent of Americans said it was unfair of retailers to ask consumers to foot the bill for this green agenda," said Danhof.
"Costco's corporate leadership would be shunning more than half of all American consumers in the name of RILA's sustainability crusade. This isn't a winning business model. If Jelinek wants to engage in far-left American politics on his own time, that is his right as an American citizen," said Danhof. "However, it now appears he is placing extreme ideology ahead of Costco's suppliers, consumers and shareholders."
"Costco should be supporting the free market," said Danhof, "as the free market is the best way to deliver high quality goods at low prices, and in a sustainable way. A manufacturer seeking profits will always make the best product he can as efficiently as possible, and he will follow the law, including all environmental regulations. If he does not, he will not stay in business. Simple as that."
A copy of Justin Danhof's question at the shareholder meeting, as prepared for delivery, can be found here.
To learn more about RILA's sustainability push, read here.
The National Center for Public Policy Research is a Costco shareholder.
The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than 4% from foundations, and less than 2% from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. In 2012, zero percent of its contributions came from the fossil fuel industry or related foundations.
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