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Amazon Shareholders Rejected Employees' Call To Respond To Climate Change

Shareholders on Wednesday rejected a proposal backed by 7,700 employees to come up with a climate change plan.

Posted on May 22, 2019, at 6:16 p.m. ET

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice

Amazon shareholders rejected a proposal to develop a plan to respond to climate change during the company's annual meeting on Wednesday. The proposal had gathered the support of nearly 7,700 employees across the company.

The resolution would have required Amazon's board of directors to prepare a public plan for "disruptions posed by climate change" and how the company will reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

Dozens of shareholders attended the shareholder meeting dressed in white. They stood up while Emily Cunningham, a user experience designer and member of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, addressed her comments to CEO Jeff Bezos, who was not onstage during the meeting.

"Speed is everything," she said. "Without bold, rapid action we will lose our only chance to avoid catastrophic warming. There’s no issue more important to our customers or our world than the climate crisis, and we are falling far short."

Amazon previously announced initiatives to address its carbon impact, including a plan to reach 50% of all Amazon shipments with net zero carbon by 2030 called "Shipment Zero." It said it also plans to share Amazon’s companywide carbon footprint later this year.

In an emailed statement, Amazon outlined its sustainability initiatives and said, “Amazon’s sustainability team is using a science-based approach to develop data and strategies to ensure a rigorous approach to our sustainability work.” The company also said, "We have a long term commitment to powering our global infrastructure using 100% renewable energy.”

Despite these initiatives, thousands of employees signed an open letter to the company that argues that these plans don't go far enough to address the climate crisis. The letter asks the company to announce a date for completion for its goal to reach 100% renewable energy, divest from fossil fuel energy, and cut emissions in half by 2030 from 2010 levels and reach zero by 2050 across the company's entire supply chain.

Rajit Iftikhar, a software engineer at Amazon, told reporters at a press conference after the shareholder meeting that climate change is not a future crisis, but one that is having "disastrous effects" in his parents' home country of Bangladesh right now.

"I want Amazon to do more on climate change because I think it’s unacceptable for one of the richest companies in the world to continue to take half actions as the consequences of its emissions put so many lives of the global poor at risk," he said.

Elizabeth Whitmire, a technical editor at Amazon and co-filer of the resolution, said she is driven by her role as a mother to address climate change.

“I just couldn't look my son in the eye, knowing what I know about the urgency of the climate crisis today, and continue to say: ‘we're already doing enough. This is good enough,'" she said. "If you have kids, think about saying that to your child. They are going to be living in the future that we create today. So I said, ‘Yes. We are going to stop the climate crisis.’ Because there really is no other choice for me right now."

Amazon shareholders rejected all 12 resolutions that were proposed. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice plans to file the climate change resolution again next year.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.