Amazon Votes Down Employee-Backed Climate Resolution
The employee-filed resolution asked the company to develop a public plan for responding to extreme weather events and weaning itself off of fossil fuels. It was publicly backed by more than 7,600 employees, who signed their names to an open letter, a novel tactic for tech employee activism, The New York Times said.
Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, the group that grew out of the resolution, said in a press release they will file another if the company's board doesn't increase its climate commitments.
"The enthusiasm is overwhelming," Amazon employee Rebecca Sheppard, who works in air cargo operations, told the Los Angeles Times. "We'll be back."
Ahead of the vote, the resolution had won the support of two of the largest proxy advisory firms in the U.S. — Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS). Glass Lewis said that Amazon was less transparent about its sustainability plans than similar companies, The New York Times said. However, the Amazon Board formally opposed the resolution, meaning it faced an uphill battle to gain the 50 percent of support it would have needed to pass, according to the employee press release. Amazon will release the final vote tallies Friday, the company told the Los Angeles Times.
During the meeting, tensions rose as the resolution was introduced. User experience designer Emily Cunningham addressed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos directly, asking him to come on stage and speak to employees about the resolution. He refused to engage, the employee press release said.
"We have the talent, the passion, the imagination. We have the scale, speed, and resources. Jeff, all we need is your leadership," Cunningham said during her speech.
WATCH: Amazon employees confront Jeff Bezos over lack of action on the #climatecrisis at the shareholder meeting today. We asked him to join us and commit to bold climate leadership now. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/okGmFCdj7B— Amazon Employees For Climate Justice (@AMZNforClimate) May 22, 2019
Around 50 people stood up in support after Cunningham introduced the resolution, CNBC reported.
When Bezos did appear later in the meeting to take questions, he was asked about what the company was doing on climate. He said it was "hard to find an issue more important than climate change." Amazon's global sustainability head Kara Hurst said the company would share its carbon footprint later in the year, CNBC reported.
Two months after the employees filed their resolution in December of 2018, Amazon announced Shipment Zero, a plan to have 50 percent of shipping emit net zero carbon by 2030. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice said the measure did not go far enough, but also said it was proof their activism had made a difference.
"In six months, we've won changes including Shipment Zero and a commitment to share our company's carbon footprint, but we know these half-steps are not nearly enough to address the scale of our company's contributions toward the climate crisis," Software development engineer Jamie Kowalski, who co-filed the resolution, said in the press release. "Amazon has the scale and resources to spark the world's imagination and lead the way on addressing the climate crisis. What we're missing is leadership from the very top of the company."
Amazon voted down 12 resolutions in total Wednesday, including two that sought to stop the company from selling facial recognition software to government agencies over concerns it would enable racial discrimination and human rights abuses, CNBC reported.
Amazon has never passed a shareholder resolution, The New York Times said, but failed resolutions have still sparked change. The board originally opposed a resolution calling for it to consider more diverse candidates last year, but eventually adopted it after public pressure and added two women of color to its previously all-white membership.
Amazon Employees Praised for Using Shareholder Status to Demand Comprehensive Climate Plan. https://t.co/zPb4h8bLCo— Brad Zarnett 🇨🇦 (@BradZarnett) December 18, 2018
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At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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