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Shareholders are important to holding Amazon accountable on sustainability


Whereas all 15 investor-backed resolutions raised throughout Amazon’s latest shareholder assembly died on the vine, there was a glimmer of hope with at the very least one. Virtually half of the shareholders voted in favor of calling on the corporate to handle its rising plastic packaging downside — the best stage of help among the many resolutions thought-about and amongst all Amazon shareholder resolutions voted on so far. Shareholders are rightfully demanding extra from Amazon’s leaders in relation to sustainability — and their struggle should proceed. 

The decision comes within the wake of an eye-opening report from Oceana, which discovered that Amazon produced 599 million kilos of plastic packaging waste in 2020, a 29 p.c improve since 2019. This plastic packaging waste, within the type of air pillows, would circle our planet greater than 600 occasions. Amazon’s buyers are nervous about such developments, with near 90 p.c of shoppers involved about plastic air pollution.  

Amazon’s deleterious environmental affect extends past waste generated from packaging. Final 12 months, 600 Amazon staff signed a press release calling on the corporate to handle air pollution that’s concentrated in communities of coloration. The retailer’s sweeping warehouse empire tends to increase in ZIP codes which have a greater share of individuals of coloration — not like its company places of work, located in suburban oases resembling Palo Alto, California, and Arlington, Virginia.

The corporate has nonetheless but to totally come clear, requesting that its Carbon Disclosure Challenge report not be shared publicly.

Amazon has no downside touting sure numbers surrounding its sustainability commitments — particularly if these numbers are tweaked in a solution to painting the corporate in a constructive gentle. As an illustration, Amazon will solely take accountability for the complete local weather affect of merchandise with an Amazon model label — amounting to a mere 1 p.c of its on-line gross sales. Which means the complete environmental penalties — the life-cycle of use and disposal — of many merchandise bought on its huge third-party market are left unaccounted. 

Solely after being shamed by acquiring the F grade it clearly deserved did Amazon start to reveal its footprints to the Carbon Disclosure Challenge, a worldwide sustainability initiative. The corporate has nonetheless but to totally come clear, requesting that its report not be shared publicly, not like the vast majority of corporations dealing with warmth from buyers for environmentally unsound practices. Even Amazon’s newest sustainability report tucked the disappointing details about its rising carbon footprint — an 18 p.c improve from final 12 months —  behind virtually 100 pages of shiny tidbits about their sustainability efforts.

Though some Amazon shareholders could really feel a way of hopelessness following the latest sustainability proposal’s failure, they’re heading in the right direction. As one commentator famous after the occasion, even a proposal that hits simply 20 p.c or 30 p.c approval sends a transparent message to the board that a difficulty have to be addressed. A rising variety of shareholders care about ESG and so do analysts who could downgrade shares because of the dangers that buyers’ proposals will expose. 

Maybe with out the monetary presence of Amazon’s former CEO, Jeff Bezos, the plastics reporting decision could have had a shot at passing. Bezos, the corporate’s largest shareholder, owns at the very least 10 p.c of the corporate’s shares, giving him the power to form the corporate lengthy after his departure from energetic company management. 

Nonetheless, there is no such thing as a indication that Bezos’s affect might be any much less vital within the close to time period. That makes the struggle from Amazon shareholders much more needed and confirms why they have to proceed to make sure the corporate’s sustainability commitments aren’t simply empty guarantees.  

There’s an ongoing and needed sea change in how People are viewing Amazon — particularly round ESG — and the corporate’s shareholders have an indispensable position to play on this shift.   

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