Freedom of Association, Digital Rights, Climate Change & Tax Avoidance Among the Multiple Themes Raised in Fifteen Shareholder Proposals Filed at Amazon
NEW YORK, NY, THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15TH, 2023 - Today Amazon ($AMZN) shareholders announced a slate of 15 proposals they are hoping to put before their fellow shareholders at the company’s 2023 annual meeting in the spring. Investors say Amazon’s size, global reach, and political influence give it unparalleled power to shape societal and global economic systems. Investors also expressed frustration that their attempts to engage the company on these concerns have been rebuffed. Most of these proposals were filed by ICCR members.
While each proposal speaks to a different concern, collectively they paint a portrait of a company in need of strengthened policies and board oversight to better manage risks the shareholders say are material to the long-term health of the company and their investments. The full list of proposals, their proponents, and quotes are available at this webpage.
Reports of Worker Rights Abuses
As the country’s largest employer, several proposals spoke to Amazon’s treatment of its warehouse employees in response to multiple allegations of abuse that have surfaced in news reports. One such proposal called on the company to commission an independent, third-party assessment of Amazon’s adherence to its stated commitment to workers’ freedom of association and collective bargaining rights. According to the proposal, Amazon has been the subject of negative media coverage both in the U.S. and internationally accusing the company of interfering with workers’ exercise of their rights through anti-unionization tactics, including allegations of intimidation, retaliation, and surveillance.
"For a company with a massive global workforce like Amazon, respect for the right of its employees to freedom of association and collective bargaining should be a baseline expectation," said Kevin Thomas, Chief Executive Officer, SHARE. "When a large part of the shareholder base supported our resolution on that issue last year, and the company did nothing to respond to that clear signal, we knew we had to put this back on the ballot and raise our voices that much louder."
Another proposal filed by Tulipshare called for an audit and report of the working conditions and treatment in Amazon warehouses.
Constance Ricketts, Head of Shareholder Activism at Tulipshare which led the filing said, "Amazon's human capital management strategy implements constant surveillance, demanding quotas, and a punitive ‘time-off-task’ tracking system - all contributing to high injury and turnover rates. This proposal received strong investor backing in 2022, showing that shareholders agree with Amazon employees, activists, and even former Amazon executives that the company's current system is unsustainable. Tulipshare is confident that Amazon employees' historic unionization efforts have paved the way for this proposal to earn a majority backing in 2023."
According to Daniel Olayiwola, SAT4 Warehouse Associate and United for Respect member-leader, "Last year I became the first Amazon warehouse associate to file my own shareholder resolution at the company, calling for an end to unsafe productivity quotas and workplace surveillance. But after Andy Jassy and the board opposed my, and every other shareholder’s resolution, the problems remain. This year I’m encouraged that shareholders are once again demanding change and accountability at Amazon and continuing to echo worker concerns around racial pay gaps, unsafe warehouse working conditions, and workers' rights."
Infringements on Digital/Human Rights
With nearly five billion monthly visits, Amazon.com is the world’s largest e-commerce platform allowing it to facilitate, or impede, free expression and access to information for billions of people through products and services sold on the platform. However, Amazon has reportedly removed products and content from the e-commerce platform following pressure from authoritarian regimes, without disclosing the removal. A proposal was filed requesting transparency reporting to provide more detailed quantitative disclosures on these removals or restrictions of content and products on the Amazon.com platform.
Said the proponent Sister Judy Byron, Director of the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, “Shareholders are rightly concerned that by failing to disclose censorship requests from governments, Amazon may be obscuring its participation in an array of human rights violations that reflect an irresponsible and dangerous status quo.”
Jan Rydzak, Company and Investor Engagement Manager at Ranking Digital Rights said, "Amazon operates e-commerce platforms in twenty countries and ships products to more than a hundred. Yet it publishes zero information about how it deals with government requests to restrict what users can buy, sell, and post around the world. It's time for Amazon to open this black box and adopt the minimal transparency standards that other tech giants embraced years ago."
Another proposal seeks to surface potential human rights abuses through the misuse of surveillance and other tech products and services by asking for an assessment of Amazon’s customer due diligence process. This proposal is being filed for the 4th time with ever-increasing shareholder support. At last year’s annual meeting the proposal garnered over 49% of the independent (excluding founder and executive shares) vote.
“As faith-based investors, we remain concerned about the potential human rights risks associated with the end use of Amazon’s technologies on vulnerable populations, including immigrant communities, people of color, and conflict-affected areas both domestically and abroad by the company’s customers,” said Dave Moore, Director of Investments at American Baptist Home Mission Society, who led the filing.
“Amazon’s technologies and services are powerful tools, which can do powerful harm in the hands of human rights abusers,” said Michael Connor, Executive Director of Open MIC. “Shareholders are rightly concerned that the company’s due diligence policies fail to prevent Amazon-enabled rights violations.”
As the world’s largest retailer and e-commerce company, Amazon’s attention to its carbon footprint is critical in the global fight to curb climate change and reduce pollution. While the company has made certain environmental pledges, shareholders continue to press for stringent emissions reductions and call on the company to play a more positive role in pressing for climate-forward policies. One of several resolutions that call out the company’s exposure to environmental risks is a proposal filed by Newground Social Investment which seeks to learn more about how Amazon addresses misalignments between its lobbying and policy influence activities and its Net-Zero climate commitments.
“As a world-leading corporation, Amazon has the opportunity to also lead in climate awareness, climate action, and climate transparency. This proposal suggests simple ways for the company to move the needle globally – helping itself, its peers, and the world at large to meet these unprecedented challenges,” said Newground’s Chief Executive Bruce Herbert.
Shareholder proposals are also focusing on governance structures that hinder shareholders’ access to information needed to evaluate risks and to participate more fully in company board elections.
One such proposal requests country-by-country tax reporting in alignment with the Global Reporting Initiatives Tax Standard. “Aggressive tax avoidance strategies have a real cost to society,” said Seamus Finn of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. “These schemes take away hundreds of billions of dollars in lost revenues yearly from government budgets, causing economic inequality to spread, harming the economy, and creating near- and long-term risks for investors. Amazon does not have to fight tax transparency; it should embrace it as other leading companies abroad and now in the U.S. are doing.”
The investors expect the proposals to go to a vote at Amazon’s annual meeting in the spring. Meanwhile, they will continue their attempts to dialogue with company representatives on these issues.
Director of Communications
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
About the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
Celebrating its 51st year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of shareholder advocates who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for social change. Its 300-member organizations comprise faith communities, socially responsible asset managers, unions, pensions, NGOs, and other socially responsible investors with combined assets of over $4 trillion. ICCR members engage hundreds of corporations annually in an effort to foster greater corporate accountability. Visit our website www.iccr.org and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.