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At Amazon’s annual general meeting last week, 35% of the company’s shareholders showed their support for a proposal aiming to take action against the company’s rampant use of plastic packaging and called on the world’s largest online retailer to reduce the number of single-use plastics employed in its operations.
Though the retailer hasn’t mentioned how much plastic it uses, a report by the environmental group Oceana has estimated that in 2019 alone, Amazon would have used around 465 million pounds of ecommerce plastic packaging with at least 22 million pounds of the waste left mismanaged, thus making its way to freshwater and marine ecosystems.
Filed by nonprofit environmental organization As You Sow and Green Century Funds that help leads shareholder advocacy on climate change, the proposal states that due to Amazon’s growing use of plastic packaging, the company will have to face the financial and reputational risk given that millions of tons of its plastic are ending up in the environment and oceans putting wildlife and marine ecosystems in extreme danger.
In addition, the proposal urges the company to reveal how much of its packaging ends up in the environment, show proof of plans or commitments to limit its use of this packaging, and assess areas where it can drastically slash its contribution to plastic pollution.
In a press release seen by Green Queen, senior vice president at As You Sow, Conrad MacKerron said Amazon has no choice but to heed to the 35% voting. “We are pleased that more than one-third of shares voted supported our request for basic disclosure of plastic generation and waste data at Amazon.com. This is an especially encouraging result for the first year that a proposal is presented. We know from experience that management pays special attention to votes exceeding 20% as they tend to reflect not only the support of progressive ESG investors but mainstream investors who want to limit reputational risk to the company.”
We know from experience that management pays special attention to votes exceeding 20% as they tend to reflect not only the support of progressive ESG investors but mainstream investors who want to limit reputational risk to the companyConrad MacKerron, senior vice president at As You Sow
Another comprehensive report from Pew Charitable Trusts called Breaking the Plastic Wave states that consumer goods companies need to bring down their plastic demand by one-third either by eliminating them completely or by implementing systems like reuse and refill, that can help reduce ocean plastic deposition by 80% by 2040.
MacKerron added: “A central reason we filed the proposal was the company’s unwillingness to sit down and talk with us. We hope this strong vote result leads to a good faith dialogue with the company on the scope of its plastic use and how it can move to recycle the majority of its plastic waste in the short term and reduce overall plastic use in the long term.”
Apart from Amazon, As You Sow sent similar proposals to five global companies with U.S. multinational soft drink giant Keurig Dr Pepper committing to reducing its use of virgin plastic 20% by 2025; Mondelez targeting a 5% absolute reduction along with a 25% cut in virgin plastic in its rigid plastic packaging; PepsiCo, Target, and Walmart with similar cuts that will be revealed later this year.
A predicted 11 million metric tons of plastics leak into oceans every year and is expected to rise to at least 24 million metric tons by 2040 that can cause irreversible effects to the ecosystem along with already existing fatalities that cause over 800 marine species to die from ingestion, entanglement, suffocation, or drowning.
Despite Amazon India announcing in 2019 that they would ditch all single-use disposable plastic packaging by June 2020, they have so far failed to deliver on that commitment.
Amazon employees had publicly called on the company’s contracts with major oil and gas firms and the company announced a US$2 billion for a new Climate Pledge Fund that would help make its operations meet its net-zero by 2040 by investing in sustainable technologies. To further appeal to a growing number of conscious consumers, the giant launched the Climate Pledge Friendly category that has over 25000 products that have one or more of the 19 sustainability certifications like its own “Compact by Design” that apparently focuses on less wasteful packaging.
Lead image courtesy of Getty Images.