Amazon Shareholders and Employees Demand Climate Change Plan

Climate change protests are on the rise worldwide, with organizations like Greenpeace comparing the recent wave of revolt to the massive anti-Vietnam War protests of the 1960s and 1970s. Now Amazon shareholders and employees are flexing a different kind of climate change action muscle, demanding environmental accountability from the online retail giant.

A new letter from 16 Amazon employee shareholders (more are expected to sign on) to the company's Board of Directors opens with a resolution:

"Shareholders request that Amazon's Board of Directors prepare a public report as soon as practicable describing how Amazon is planning for disruptions posed by climate change, and how Amazon is reducing its company-wide dependence on fossil fuels."

The demand takes a two-pronged approach to how and why Amazon should address its impact on the planet, both pointing out how extreme weather events endanger the company and describing how Amazon "operations contribute significantly to the problem."

The first approach, addressing how climate change harms Amazon's workers and business model, is backed by a stunning list of weather-related disasters, including Australian data centers taken down by record-breaking rainfall, runways too hot for Amazon Air (the company's aviation cargo service) planes to take off, two workers killed by a tornado and employees forced to wear face masks to the Seattle headquarters in the wake of massive West Coast forest fires. Climate change will also endanger Amazon's future plans, such as the Amazon Web Services expansion planned for Cape Town, South Africa, a city expected to run out of water by 2019, even with stringent rationing.

You you go!

— Emily Cunningham (@emahlee) December 17, 2018

The United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—which recently concluded we have 12 years to avert global catastrophe after a review of more than 6,000 scientific papers—has also linked extreme events like those described by the Amazon shareholder letter to the changing climate.

"A changing climate leads to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration and timing of extreme weather and climate events, and can result in unprecedented extreme weather and climate events," the IPCC reports.

"It's pretty clear immediately that they're the least transparent" of the big tech companies, Rebecca Deutsch, of climate justice group 350 Seattle, told The Seattle Times. "Based on what they've released so far, they're the furthest behind in trying to transition off of fossil fuels."

The shareholders' letter agrees Amazon is not doing enough, citing climate change plans created by corporate peers like Google, UPS and Walmart.

The shareholder letter is quick to note that Amazon "is not a mere victim of climate change."

"To limit warming to the safer levels governments committed to in the Paris Agreement, scientists estimate that the world can only burn a fifth of existing fossil fuel reserves. Multiple industries will have to modernize to meet this mandate. Coal still powers Amazon data centers. Diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel still power package delivery," the shareholders write. "Amazon's report could include time-bound, quantitative metrics for transitioning off fossil fuels at the speed and scale necessary to meet targets in IPCC's latest climate science report."

Amazon has yet to comment on the resolution, which, if left unchallenged, will be presented at the company's annual shareholder meeting in May.