Almost 8,000 Amazon employees publicly signed a letter asking their company to drastically limit their environmental impact. They hoped to present their plea directly to their boss, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, at the company's annual general meeting on Wednesday.
But the boss was not available – at least not right then.
Bezos attended the Seattle Shareholders' Meeting and took the stage later Wednesday morning to respond to investor issues and discuss business highlights.
When the employees who supported the climate problem had moments to speak on the incident, Bezos was apparently not in the room.
Amazon employee Emily Cunningham one of the climate problem organizers, stood up to introduce it to the other shareholders at the meeting. Her voice shook when she started talking, she said . And her first question was, where's our boss, Jeff Bezos?
She asked him to come out on stage so she could "talk to him directly." Event moderator shrugged her, saying that Bezos would be out later. On the question of whether Bezos would be able to hear the employee's suggestion, a troublesome silence over the matter hung until MC managed to answer: "I guess."
The employees who worked so hard to get Bezo's attention to a problem near their heart were not happy.
They later tweeted on the Twitter account, Amazon employees for Climate Justice "This is not the kind of management we need to tackle the climate crisis. We need a plan, a commitment to zero carbon emissions. longer "guess" we do enough. We will lead the way. "
The episode was a narrative example of the complex landscape in which Amazon now operates. The $ 915 billion company is facing increasing control over business practices, even as investors and customers praise its services.
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In addition to the climate advocates, protesters, some dressed in poop emoji costumes, gathered outside to protest working conditions and Amazon's face recognition software.
Despite how good Amazon shareholders are doing these days – the stock is trading at around $ 1,860 – the atmosphere inside the room at the General Assembly was not celebrating, CNN Business reporter Lydia DePillis reported.
"This is a buttoned-up, no frills, just-get-it-over-with event," DePillis tweeted from inside the room.
There was no live streaming and journalists were not allowed to bring cameras or take pictures. Those who tried were stopped by the company's PR people.
Lots of support, except on the board
The climate letter signed by Amazon employees encouraged the company to do more than offer a handful of green programs. They want a plan for Amazon to stop using fossil fuels in its business, with the sole purpose of making Amazon a zero emission company.
Employees also called for things that no longer help oil companies with fossil fuel related projects. (Amazon Web Services has a unit dedicated to the gas and oil industry). They want the company to stop supporting politicians with immense climate claims. And they want the company not to punish employees, including hourly staff, who miss work due to climate-related events such as hurricanes and fires.
But their official shareholder proposals were far from modest. They wanted the company to develop a disaster recovery plan for climate-related events, and to publish a progress report on the Amazon's efforts to limit its fossil fuel consumption.
The Amazon regime did not raise the proposal and claimed that its green initiatives were plentiful. And since shareholder proposals hardly ever go without the board's support, it was voted down. This despite the fact that two of the country's two largest proxy consulting firms, Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), came out in support in the resolution. (In fact, all 11 shareholder proposals were presented on Wednesday, none of which were supported by the board, canceled.)
In total, 7,683 Amazon employees signed their names to the letter, representing about 12% of the company's tech employees, one of them said at a press conference that was livestreamed after the general meeting.
"They completely dodged our question"
About 50 employees had crowded into the shareholder meeting to support Cunningham, who works as a UX designer in his day job, and her speech.
They had to jump through hoops to be allowed, she said at the press conference. This year, several controversial proposals were presented and security was tight.
Earlier this year, an employee sign was enough to enter the meeting, Cunningham said at the press conference. Many employees are paid in stock so that they are shareholders. This year, however, the topic was not enough. They had to prove their shareholding, Cunningham said.
Despite the shooting ban at the meeting, the Amazon employees took some pictures and tweeted them, including one showing that all of them handed their hands to question the boss Bezos when he was on stage.
During Q&A, they got the chance to ask their boss questions.
An employee, Orion Stanger, Software Development Engineer, asked: "We have talked a lot about our long-term renewable energy goal, but we have no dates related to it."
He pointed out that as an employee would be unacceptable not having deadlines for their projects. He asked Bezos points sharply: "What is the date for achieving 100% renewable energy for all Amazon operations?"
An Amazon rep reacted: "As we have said before this year, we are going to release our carbon footprint publicly and along with the targets associated with carbon, so there is more to it, nothing to share today "Long-term goals today are still a long-term goal, but more to come this year."
They were not happy with the answer.
"We are at Q&A and we all raised our hands, but they have completely dodged our question. This is not climate leadership," the staff later tweeted.
Some encouraging signs
If there were some good news for the employees who pushed for an environmentally friendly agenda, it is like this: In addition to their boss's cool shoulder, none of them have experienced any retribution at work over this, they said.
In fact, they have experienced the opposite. In addition to nearly a thousand employees who wrote the letter, they have heard from colleagues enthusiastically that they have taken on this social action.
So employees said they didn't give up. In fact, they take a win in as much as they can. They first started the process of their shareholder proposals six months ago, and feel they have scored a few gains, including Amazon's commitment to use carbon credit to offset the impact of the packaging / shipments, a plan called Shipping Zero introduced in February.
"For six months, we have won changes, including Shipping Zero, and a commitment to share the company's carbon footprint, but we know that these half-steps are not close enough to address the scale of the company's contribution to the climate crisis," Jamie said. Kowalski in a statement sent to Business Insider. Kowalski is a software development engineer who co-filed the resolution and participated in the shareholder meeting.
"Amazon has the scale and resources to spark the world's imagination and lead the way to coping with the climate crisis. What we lack is leadership from the top of the company," he said.
"We have the talent to do this. The technology exists. It's just about making the right choices," another Amazon employee, Weston Fribley, told the press conference.