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Amazon shareholders demand action on climate change

Image credit: DT

For the first time, Amazon shareholders have submitted a wide range of resolutions, including demands that the e-commerce giant reduces its use of fossil fuels and discloses its total carbon footprint.

While Amazon shareholders have previously remained relatively undemanding of the company, this year shareholders will vote on 12 resolutions at the e-tailing giant’s AGM.

More than 7,600 Amazon employees have signed an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos calling for him to introduce a comprehensive climate change mitigation plan, arguing that “Amazon has the resources and scale to spark the world’s imagination and redefine what is possible and necessary to address the climate crisis.”

The letter supports a shareholder resolution arguing that the company is already affected by climate change through extreme weather symptoms, such as severe storms which caused outages at Amazon’s data centres in the US and Australia. The resolution calls for Amazon to consider long-term climate risks and report its carbon emissions like its competitors - such as Google, UPS, Walmart, Target - already do.

“Amazon is not a mere victim of climate change – its operations contribute significantly to the problem,” the resolution states.

It calls for Amazon to “prepare a public report as soon as practicable describing how Amazon is planning for disruptions posed by climate change and how Amazon is reducing its company-wide dependence on fossil fuels.”

Amazon is offering one-day shipping for its Prime members as it seeks to secure revenue from a subscription-based business model, which is sure to result in less carbon-efficient deliveries. In addition to its retail offerings, Amazon is also the world’s largest cloud services provider, requiring energy-intensive data centres. Nearly half of its data centres are powered with fossil fuels, the company has disclosed.

Meanwhile, rival tech giants have made pledges to reach net zero carbon emissions in their data centres and factories. Microsoft has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 75 per cent by 2030; Google is meeting its energy needs entirely through renewable energy; Apple is approaching 100 per cent renewable energy throughout its manufacturing processes, and Facebook announced that its new $1bn Singapore data centre will be supported entirely by renewable energy.

According to CNN, Amazon’s second and third largest shareholders (BlackRock and Vanguard) could be willing to vote for the resolution, giving it a realistic chance of being passed.

Amazon itself is opposing the resolution, along with every other measure on the ballot, arguing that it already has long-term goals to make all shipping net zero, with half of shipments net zero by 2030. The company said that it will issue a report on its carbon footprint later this year.

Dexter Galvin, a director at non-profit environmental platform CDP, told CBS that the disclosure of carbon footprint is an industry standard and that “a lack of transparency on environmental impact has been a long-standing problem for the digital retail giant.”

Two resolutions also brought forward to the AGM relate to Amazon’s controversial facial-recognition software, Rekognition, which has been adopted by law enforcement and security services, including by police in Florida and Oregon. One resolution is calling for an investigation into the impact of its use by government authorities and another calls for a moratorium on sales of Rekognition to government agencies until potential harms are resolved (echoing demands from civil liberties campaign groups).

According to reports, Amazon requested that the Securities Exchange Commission allow the corporation to omit these two resolutions.

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