Broad Support From Amazon Shareholders to Reduce Plastic Use

Broad Support From Amazon Shareholders to Reduce Plastic Use

Almost half of Amazon shareholders showed support for a resolution that calls for reduced use of plastic packaging. The vote came on the heels of Oceana’s December report, Exposed: Amazon’s Enormous and Rapidly Growing Plastic Pollution Problem, which claims the company used 599 million pounds of plastic packaging in 2020 alone. The investors voted on a proposal put forth by the shareholder advocacy organization, As You Sow, which has submitted similar resolutions at McDonald’s, Target, and other companies with a long plastic waste trail. While the resolution didn’t pass, Amazon shareholders showed more support for reducing plastic packaging than any prior environmental proposals.

Oceana: Amazon's enormous and rapidly growing plastic pollution problem, December 21, 2021.

Our Changing Planet: Why is Amazon shipping so cheap?, February 28, 2020.

Why This Matters

Just a few years ago, shareholder advocacy groups were looking for pledges to make products more recyclable. With a better understanding of how little plastic is ever recycled, those demands have shifted to reducing waste upfront. Plastic pollution is well beyond the crisis point, with humans producing over 18.2 trillion pounds of effectively non-recyclable material since the 1950s. Plastic releases carbon emissions from beginning to end, starting with oil and gas extraction. Much of the petrochemical industry, including plastic production, is funded by oil companies and banks that also contribute to deforestation and biodiversity loss.

The Story of Stuff Project: The Story of Plastic, April 21, 2021.

Our Changing Climate: Why Plastic Pollution is Even Worse Than You Think, April 23, 2021.

Shareholder Advocacy

The Amazon plastics proposal is one of many pushes from shareholder advocacy that big polluting companies have felt.

Even if the Amazon plastic reduction request had passed, shareholder resolutions have their limits. They aren’t binding, so the company isn’t required to follow them, but they can be part of the broader negotiation toolkit.

PBS: Plastic Wars (full film), March 31, 2020.

CBS: Climate change lawsuits | Taking fossil fuel firms to court, April 17, 2022.

CNN: Climate milestone | Big Oil sent clear message by investors, courts, May 27, 2021.

TED: How to get Big Oil to end the climate crisis | Mark van Baal, January 5, 2022.