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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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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