Shareholder resolution on plastics at Amazon

4 members

Further information on this resolution can be found in the Resolution Database Sustainable Packaging Policies for Plastics

Summary

On May 25th, shareholders will vote on a resolution asking Amazon to issue a report describing how the company could reduce its plastics use. The report would also (at Board discretion) quantify the amount of plastic packaging used by the company - a metric that Amazon has so far refused to disclose. A similar 2021 proposal received 35% in support.

Business case

Investors are encouraged to vote FOR Amazon Item 8 – Shareholder Proposal Requesting a Report on Packaging Materials. Rationale for such a vote of support is outlined below

During the annual Amazon Meeting on May 25th, shareholders will vote on a resolution requesting the company’s board of directors to issue a report, at reasonable expense and excluding proprietary information, on the company’s plastic packaging use and how it could reduce this use, and contribution to plastic pollution. Amazon - the largest retailer in the world outside of China - does not report on its plastic footprint and has not committed to specific company-wide plastic reduction goals. Without this information, investors cannot assess their ESG risk exposure on the very significant global issue of plastic pollution. This resolution reflects growing concern about the company’s plastic footprint, increased regulatory and ESG pressure for plastic reduction, and the growing need to formally address the plastic pollution crisis.

Oceana, founded in 2001, is the largest international advocacy organization focused solely on ocean conservation and which campaigns globally to protect the oceans from marine plastic pollution that increasingly threatens ocean ecosystems. Oceana recommends that Amazon shareholders vote FOR Item 8.

Oceana’s report on Amazon’s plastic footprint is a source for the figures cited in Item 8. This report has been updated and now estimates that Amazon generated 599 million pounds of plastic packaging waste in 2020. This is a 29% increase of Oceana’s 2019 estimate of 465 million pounds. Amazon has disputed Oceana’s estimate saying it is 300% greater than its footprint but has not responded to Oceana’s repeated requests to provide alternative data and details about what baseline the company has referenced. When calculating its own plastic footprint, is Amazon only referring to products it manufactures, that is sells, that it fulfills, or everything sold through its platform?

Additionally, Amazon has stated that Oceana, in its report, “use[s] outdated assumptions about the sources of plastic waste entering our oceans.” In fact, Oceana referenced the most recent peer reviewed study, Borrelle, et al. (2020), that provides country level plastic pollution data (needed for this kind of analysis). Amazon, in its response, cites a study which does not provide country level data and, according to its lead author, and contrary to the company’s statement, finds that “plastic covers/wrappers, bags, strapping bands & packaging contribute 27% of the litter we find in the aquatic environment.” This study validates Oceana’s findings that this type of plastic waste created by Amazon is a significant problem for the oceans. Oceana is a science-based organization and will update its findings when and if the company shares or reports on its data. It is time for Amazon to be transparent with its data.

Amazon is asking its shareholders to vote against this proposal to issue a report on its plastic footprint because, as the company writes in its 2022 proxy statement, “In contrast to consumer-packaged goods companies, Amazon’s greatest impact comes from helping other manufacturers reduce their use of plastic in packaging and reducing our own use of plastic for products repackaged for delivery.” The company goes on to say that “we have reduced the weight of outbound packaging by 36% and eliminated more than one million tons of packaging material since 2015.”

The shareholder proposal is focused on plastic packaging. Amazon, according to Oceana’s estimate, generates hundreds of millions of pounds of plastic packaging each year. Citing figures about overall packaging weight reduction is not relevant (as this could reflect an increase in the use of plastic packaging in place of other forms of packaging).

Investors should support this resolution that simply requires the company to issue a report that details its plastic packaging pollution footprint and explores options for reducing its plastic packaging use.

Shareholders should vote FOR Item 8 because

  • The company faces growing concern and demand to formally measure and take action to reduce its plastic footprint.
  • Policymakers in the U.S., European Union, and elsewhere are pushing for companies to be transparent about and to take steps to reduce plastic packaging.
  • The type of plastic used for plastic packaging, plastic film, is – as the company itself notes – not accepted by municipal recycling programs and can be deadly to ocean animals.
  • The company is unnecessarily incurring damage to its reputation. Amazon can easily, and with limited cost, comply with the resolution.
  • The company has stated that it is already tracking its plastic use (as referenced in its reply to Oceana).
  • The company has developed plastic-free alternatives that it is now using on a wide scale.
  • The company has committed to eliminating single-use packaging in Germany (its second largest market).
  • The company can and should be a leader in plastic use transparency and innovation.
  • Plastic is made from petroleum and is a significant contributor to climate change. Amazon has stated that reducing its climate change impact is a priority for the company.

For all sources and findings referenced in this business case, please refer to Oceana's memo included in the files accompanying this collaboration and posted on www.amazoniansfortheoceans.com

For additional information on this collaboration opportunity and resolution, please contact Matt Littlejohn and Dana Miller at mlittlejohn@oceana.org, and dmiller@oceana.org.

Collaboration details

Type
Shareholder resolution
Status
Active: seeking support
ESG theme
  • Environment
Created on
Deadline
Geography
Global
Attachments