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Amazon climate resolution gets relatively strong showing despite failure

Updated 6:37 AM ET, Sat May 25, 2019

New York (CNN Business) - A shareholder resolution demanding that Amazon create a plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions didn't pass at the company's meeting earlier this week, in the face of opposition from the board and CEO Jeff Bezos. But it did garner substantial support, according to a regulatory filing posted late Friday.

Not counting abstentions, 30.9% of shares were cast in favor of the resolution. That's slightly higher than 25.7% support, on average, for all environmental and social resolutions voted on between 2015 and 2018, according to an analysis by the Conference Board. It can be more difficult for such resolutions to garner significant support at large companies, however, because even large shareholders hold a relatively small amount. At Amazon, the largest stockholder other than Bezos — who retains 16.2% of the company he founded — only holds 6.2%.

That second-largest stockholder, the Vanguard Group, said it does not comment on specific proxy votes.

Amazon faced 12 shareholder resolutions on its proxy ballot this year — a record for the e-commerce giant and a very high number for any company. The top vote-getter among the environmental and social resolutions was a measure requesting a review of policies addressing sexual harassment, with 33.3% of shares, excluding abstentions. A measure asking for a report on government use of Amazon's facial recognition technology received 28.2%, and another asking the company to report the gap in median pay between men and women across the company received 26.8%.

The climate resolution had been the subject of a campaign by the company's own employees, thousands of whom signed a letter asking their employer to cease working with oil and gas companies and transition completely away from fossil fuels in its operations. Scores of employees, many of whom hold stock themselves because of Amazon's compensation policies, stood in support at the general meeting on Wednesday while a representative read their resolution.

Amazon has said that it's already doing what the resolution asks, since it's compiling an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions and plans to include reduction targets when that report is completed later this year.

Over the past decade, Amazon shareholders filed other resolutions asking for such a report, and none broke the 30% threshold. The employee group said it plans to re-file the resolution next year.

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