SEATTLE — Jeff Bezos, asked directly by employees at Amazon’s shareholder meeting Wednesday morning to take meaningful action on climate change, would not commit to put the commerce giant on the rapid emissions-reduction path scientists say is necessary to address the global crisis.
“It’s hard to find an issue that’s more important than climate change. The science is super-compelling on this. There’s no doubt about it,” said Bezos, the Amazon founder, chairman and chief executive, in a brief question-and-answer session following the business portion of Amazon’s annual gathering. During the meeting, 12 shareholder proposals on corporate governance, social issues and environmental concerns — including an employee-backed proposal on climate — were presented and defeated.
Two climate-focused Amazon employees in the meeting were called on by corporate handlers to ask Bezos questions. Citing Amazon’s own leadership principles and practices, they asked him very specific questions: Will you commit to a top-leadership initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the speed consistent with the latest climate science?
Bezos cited the company’s recent “Shipment Zero” pledge to reduce to zero the emissions from half its deliveries by 2030, and noted that e-commerce and cloud computing “are inherently more carbon efficient than their alternatives. Building your own datacenters, very bad. Driving yourself to the store to pick up a gallon of milk... very bad. So we’re doing a lot intrinsically, and have been for 20 years. But that’s not what I’m talking about.”
He cited Amazon’s renewable energy procurement and the goal of powering all of its global infrastructure with renewables at some point in the future. Amazon chief sustainability officer Kara Hurst added that the company is at work on measuring and mapping its companywide emissions and creating a system that its business units can use “to attack our carbon footprint.” She added that the company is working on reducing packaging waste, electrifying its vehicle fleet and investing in recycling systems.
Amazon has said most of this before as it, like many major corporations, is under mounting pressure to disclose and reduce its emissions in accordance with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Another Amazon employee was called on for the last question of the morning and again addressed Bezos on climate. Orion Stanger said that “in the climate crisis, winning slowly is the same as losing.” He criticized the lack of timelines from Amazon on the issue, and noted that in his product plans for the company, he’s expected to have dates and milestones.
“Jeff, what is the date for when we will achieve 100 percent renewable energy for all of Amazon’s operations?” Stanger asked.
Bezos deferred to Hurst, who said there’s more to come from the company, but “the long-term goal today remains a long-term goal.”
Bezos thanked the couple hundred shareholders inside Fremont Studios for the event and went on his way.
Outside, protests and press conferences were held by several groups, including pilots who fly for Amazon air-cargo contractors; Amazon campus-security staff, in a unionization fight with their contract employer; a large contingent of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, now numbering nearly 7,700; people opposed to Amazon’s sale of facial recognition technology to law-enforcement agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and advocates for affordable housing and services for people experiencing homelessness.
The protestors chanted and played music as shareholders filed out of the building, some stopping at a temporary Amazon banana stand for a free piece of fruit.