New slate of ESG proposals at Amazon signal ongoing shareholder concerns
Investors say proposals citing health and safety risks to workers, liabilities related to third-party sellers, and due diligence around the sale of surveillance tech, among other issues, indicate the company is failing to adequately manage risks.
NEW YORK, NY, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25TH, 2020 – Investors in Amazon ($AMZN) have again filed multiple shareholder proposals in an attempt to elevate a variety of environmental, social and governance concerns to the attention of the board and fellow shareholders.
The twelve proposals highlighted were filed by ICCR members and partner organizations and are a subset of at least 14 filed at the company for inclusion in the 2020 proxy.
Investors say the resolutions illustrate how Amazon’s rapid growth and outsized influence heighten its exposure to systemic risks with potentially serious financial, legal and reputational consequences for the company and its shareholders.
Many shareholder proposals serve as an early-warning system to alert a company and its investors about emerging issues relevant to the firm’s business. Evidence strongly supports the market’s conclusion that such proposals create long-term value by prompting improved governance and risk mitigation structures as well as helping to identify opportunities. Last year, the same group of investors submitted nine proposals. Shareholder support for many of the proposals was in the 20 – 25% range: a strong result given Amazon’s ownership structure.
Of the twelve proposals filed by the group this year, the company has thus far challenged six, petitioning the SEC for permission to omit them from its proxy. The proponents believe that their proposals are appropriate under the 14a8 rules governing the process and therefore should make it to the proxy, and stress that, rather than attempting to silence shareholder voices, the proposals should be seen by Amazon management as an opportunity to receive constructive, solutions-oriented feedback from stakeholders concerned about the long-term sustainability of the company.
The twelve proposals submitted by the group for 2020 and their status at the SEC are:
- ESG Risks of Third-Party Sellers: Mercy Investment Services (challenged)
- Adopt a Human Rights Policy: Ohman Fonder (challenged)
- Human Rights Impact Assessment: Oxfam America (challenged)
- Customer Due Diligence: Investor Advocates for Social Justice (challenged)
- Executive Compensation and Diversity Goals: Zevin Asset Management (challenged)
- Worker Health and Safety Risks: Teamsters (challenged)
- Facial Recognition Technology (Rekognition): Harrington Investments
- Lobbying Disclosure: Newground Social Investments
- Food Waste: JLens Investor Network
- Hate Speech: Nathan Cummings Foundation
- Independent Chair: AFL-CIO
- Gender/Racial Pay Equity: Arjuna Capital
The investors encourage Amazon to create a space for meaningful discussion of the issues raised in the proposals with relevant stakeholders, including potentially affected groups. They also say they will be appealing the challenges at the SEC and are hopeful other shareholders will have a chance to exercise their right to vote on the proposals at the company’s annual meeting in May.