Bunge was clearly expecting us. When Judson Barros (director of the NGO FUNAGUS in Piauí, Brazil) and I entered the Sofitel and walked to the check-in for the shareholder meeting, they treated us like VIP’s that they were expecting. The three people at the table looked at our proxy letters and one mumbled, “Oh, yes, these are the letters we heard about.”
We were promptly handed over shareholder badges and invited to climb the stairs to delight in some breakfast before the meeting got started. I couldn’t help but notice the scant number of people present, and the rather small meeting room that we would be sitting in. It was by far the smallest shareholder meeting that I’ve ever attended with a total of 50-60 people total.
The meeting proceeded as expected with an introduction by CEO Alberto Weisser, then a review of the meeting rules, voting, and a powerpoint presentation on the company. Voting results were announced (all resolutions passed), and then the meeting opened to Q&A. By the way, the resolutions up for voting had absolutely zero social or environmental content. They addressed mundane H.R. issues.
Judson stood up during the Q&A period and read a statement about Bunge’s ongoing disrespect for environmental laws in Brazil, specifically in the state of Piauí where he is from. In Piauí, Bunge uses native wood from the Cerrado—a super biodiverse savannah—for 100 percent of their energy needs in all their soy processing plants. In March of this year, three Federal Court Justices in Brasilia, Brazil ruled that Bunge must stop cutting and burning wood from the Cerrado. But, Bunge continues to operate with total disregard for this ruling and for the environment—burning wood in its plant.
After Judson spoke, an older gentleman stood up and stated that he owned 600 shares in Bunge, and that he urged the company to take seriously every word of Judson’s statement. He went on to state that he believes that as an industry leader the company has the responsibility to make big steps forward to respect the environment and be responsible in their practices. The CEO merely looked at him and said, “Thank you.”