At Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting on May 22, shareholders sent a strong message about the global behemoth’s responsibility to address environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns in its expansive worldwide operations and supply chain, with 12 resolutions appearing on the ballot, the most any company received in 2019. Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) members filed nine of those proposals as part of a coordinated effort to engage the company. Modeled after the ICCR coalition established in the mid-1990s to engage Walmart in a broad-based dialogue, ICCR members and NGO partners created a coordinating group in 2018 focused on Amazon and strategies to bring the company to the table for dialogue. In November 2018, the coordinating group sent an investor letter, representing $2.6 trillion in assets under management, outlining shareholders’ concerns about Amazon’s approach to investor relations and the lack of substantive engagement on a variety of ESG issues. When the company failed to meaningfully respond, many investors decided to file resolutions to bring a slate of salient issues before the company.
The nine resolutions filed by ICCR members covered a wide array of ESG issues, including how the company manages and reduces food waste, gender pay equity, facial recognition technology’s impacts on civil and human rights, the request for an independent board chair, and diversity in executive compensation. Of the 12 proposals filed at Amazon, nine received more than 19% of the simple majority vote, demonstrating the significance of these issues and the growing support from other shareholders in a company with considerable insider stock ownership. Going forward, the ICCR coordinating group plans to leverage the strong votes from the annual shareholder meeting and press Amazon for substantive dialogue to address the company’s exposure to these issues throughout its value chain.