Amazon faced an unprecedented number of shareholder resolutions at its annual meeting on Wednesday. All of them failed, which is typical for shareholder meetings. Regardless, the high number of proposals reflect the increasing scrutiny Amazon faces as it spreads across industries.
Specific vote counts won't be released for several days, but may still demonstrate substantial support for some resolutions.
The 12 resolutions, all of which Amazon's board opposed, spanned issues from the sale of facial recognition technology to governments to equal pay for male and female employees. Representatives of socially responsible investors and activist groups asked Amazon to produce reports on food waste, sexual harassment policies, and the sale of offensive products on its platform, as well as to incorporate sustainability and equity metrics into executive compensation, among other measures.
The most dramatic moment came during the presentation of a resolution backed by more than 7,600 Amazon employees asking for a plan to respond to climate change. Scores of shareholders dressed in white stood up while user experience designer Emily Cunningham invited CEO Jeff Bezos to hear the resolution in person on stage.
"I would like to ask for Jeff Bezos to come out on stage so that I can speak to him directly," she said.
"Mr. Bezos will be out later," said Brian Olsavsky, the company's chief financial officer.
"Will he be hearing this speech?" Cunningham asked.
"I assume so," Olsavsky replied.
Amazon has announced several initiatives to reduce its carbon impact, including "Shipment Zero," its plan to deliver 50% of all Amazon packages to customers with net zero carbon by 2030. It is currently compiling a complete greenhouse gas emissions inventory, to be released later this year.
In her speech, Cunningham asked her employer to do more, faster.
"Speed is everything," she said. "Without bold, rapid action, we will lose our only chance to avoid catastrophic warming. ... Our home, planet Earth, not far off places in space, desperately needs bold leadership. Jeff, all we need is your leadership."
When asked about the issue in the question and answer session, Bezos said that efforts are already underway.
"It's hard to find an issue that is more important than climate change," Bezos said. "The science is super compelling on this, there's no doubt about this. It's also, as everyone knows, a very difficult problem. ... There are a lot of initiatives underway, and we're not done. We'll think of more, we're very inventive."