The Heat is On: Amazon Shareholders Reject Employee’s Climate Resolution

Last week, all eyes were on Seattle where Amazon’s shareholders rejected every resolution presented at their annual company meeting. The meeting was particularly in the spotlight this year as employees were interested to hear how CEO Jeff Bezos and Amazon would respond to their open letter requesting that the company take climate justice more seriously.

The letter was published on Medium early last month by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, a group of employees who are pushing for increased action and transparency from Amazon in the climate justice movement. It called on Mr. Bezos and the Board of Directors to take charge in the fight for climate action by presenting a number of initiatives to clarify their Shipment Zero plan, prioritize environmental impact in all business decisions (especially the impacts in the most vulnerable communities), and release a report on Amazon’s carbon emissions worldwide, to name a few.

Signed by 7,683 Amazon employees and growing, the letter asked Amazon to not only try to mitigate and withdraw from the use of fossil fuels but to be a leader in this effort. “Amazon has the resources and scale to spark the world’s imagination and redefine what is possible and necessary to address the climate crisis,” employees wrote in the letter. “We believe this is a historic opportunity for Amazon to stand with employees and signal to the world that we’re ready to be a climate leader.”

Emily Cunningham, an Amazon employee and a member of the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, spoke for the group at the shareholder meeting. She explained how Amazon had the resources to turn the climate crisis around and asked Jeff Bezos to adopt their resolution.

“How will we tell our children that we knew we had such a small window to act decisively, to leave fossil fuels in the ground but instead we helped Shell, BP, and others find and extract oil more quickly,” Cunningham asked at the meeting. “How will we explain that we kept our emissions rising knowing that the Global South, Indigenous peoples, and communities of color were paying a terrible price?”

Jeff Bezos was not in the room at the time of the meeting, though when asked if he would hear the speech, the leader of the General Counsel responded, “I assume.”

Why should we care? As the most valuable brand in the world, Amazon is worth $153.6 billion, and it employs almost 650,000 employees worldwide. If this company were to follow through with the proposals employees are presenting, it would not just be a big step for combatting the climate crisis for the tech industry, but for industries across the board. 

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice group continues to publish their #ClimateStories and have announced they are not giving up on their cause. “We are proud of Amazon’s success, to which we’ve all contributed. We want to be proud of its values as well,” the group said in their closing remarks at the meeting. “Jeff and the Board can adopt this resolution at any time. The company can announce a plan to end our dependence on fossil fuel at any time. We will continue to ask for Jeff’s leadership until Amazon is a zero- carbon company.”

Photo from @AMZNforClimate

Catie Brown