Colgate-Palmolive shareholders rejected a proposal that sought to stop the health and hygiene company’s charitable donations to left-wing political activist Al Sharpton.
Shareholders voted against the proposed audit of Colgate’s charitable donations by an unspecified margin at their annual meeting on Friday morning, acting on a recommendation from the company’s board of directors. The Manhattan-based company owns dozens of brands including Colgate toothpaste, Irish Spring soap and Ajax and Palmolive detergents.
“Rigorous control and oversight processes govern our charitable giving activities to ensure corporate funds are allocated appropriately,” the board says on page 67 of the company’s proxy statement.
“Only tax-exempt charitable organizations that meet our giving guidelines and align with our values and charitable focus areas are considered for charitable contributions, and all such organizations must go through an extensive internal due diligence and approval process prior to applications being approved,” it adds.
The proposal, printed on the same page, had called on the board to publish a semi-annual report on its website listing the recipients of charitable donations.
“Absent a system of transparency and accountability for charitable contributions, Company executives may use Company assets for objectives that are not shared by and may be inimical to the interests of the Company and its shareholders,” the proposal states.
Conservative shareholder-activists from the Virginia-based National Legal and Policy Center, which owns 43 shares in the company, drafted the proposal.
They pointed out that CEO Noel Wallace in June 2020 had announced a $4-million commitment over two years “to Black and African American communities, while we also continue active support for programs that advance women, Latinxs, Asians, LGBTQ+, veterans and people with disabilities.”
Colgate announced new diversity, equity and inclusion policies at that time.
Paul Chesser, director of the center’s Corporate Integrity Project, told shareholders during a three-minute presentation that the company’s website confirmed that Sharpton’s National Action Network received an unspecified share of the money.
“Somehow that detail was buried deep, without identifying Sharpton, in Colgate’s vague Sustainability Report, where the company tells shareholders what they are allowed to know about its charitable donations,” Mr. Chesser told shareholders.
“Nonetheless, we call upon Colgate to defund the divisive, race-baiting Reverend Al, regardless of the amount,” he later added.
The conservative activist told The Washington Times in an email that “toothpaste and dish detergent customers” should know if their money is supporting left-wing causes.
“Colgate-Palmolive’s masked support for Al Sharpton and his organization is exactly the reason why greater transparency is needed for public corporations’ charitable contributions,” Mr. Chesser wrote.
Neither Colgate nor the National Action Network, which Mr. Sharpton has led since founding it in 1991, responded to a request for comment.
The liberal advocacy group, known for boycotting companies while at the same time soliciting donations from them, supports a wide range of progressive policies.
In an unrelated press release from the group on Friday, Mr. Sharpton said he will appear with Planned Parenthood leaders at a Saturday rally to criticize a U.S. Supreme Court draft ruling that would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
“It is yet another reminder that abortion restrictions and bans disproportionately burden Black women, low-income people and other marginalized members of our community,” Mr. Sharpton said in a statement.