When Shake Shack had its IPO last week, animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was among the investors to snatch up shares. The group’s not looking to pad its endowment; rather, it intends to use its stake to convince Shake Shack to sell vegan dishes.
This is not a new tactic. “PETA has historically used shareholder resolutions,” says David Byer, senior corporate liaison for PETA. “We’ve been using them since the 1980s to successfully come to the table to discuss important matters. Usually, it gets the company to talk, and then we withdraw the resolution.”
Former targets of the strategy include Denny’s, Safeway, and McDonald’s; Byer says productive discussions resulted. Those companies weren’t targeted for a dearth of vegan meals, though — PETA has most often used shareholder resolutions to push for updated animal welfare standards and humane slaughter, often by forcing a split from conventional purveyors. More recently, though, PETA worked with Ikea not to improve its suppliers, but to add vegan meatballs to its menu.
And with Shake Shack, too, PETA is focusing not on slaughter, but on vegan menu options. Adding these, says Byer, “will help Shake Shack work toward its vision to stand for something good. The demand for vegan foods is rapidly growing. Choosing vegan helps animals, the environment, and health.” He cites a vegan burger, hot dog, and milkshake as possible additions, and notes that the only current option for vegans is an order of fries. But the point, he says, is to get to the table with Shake Shack and work on ideas.
We’ve reached out to Shake Shack to see how the chain plans to respond to PETA’s demands, but so far have yet to hear back.
What happens to the money PETA makes on these deals, you ask? Byer says PETA holds stock in companies for several years, and the point is never to make a profit. If the organization does make money off of selling shares, it rolls the gains into other stock, or uses it to support its overall mission. As for Shake Shack, Byer says they’re down a bit from when they bought.