While none of the 12 activist shareholder proposals were approved by Amazon stockholders this week, vote tallies released Friday reveal more about where the company’s owners stand on the hot-button issues put before them.
About a fifth of share owners backed a high-profile, climate-focused proposal brought by Amazon employees. Only 1.7% thought the company should ban sales of its facial-recognition technology to governments.
The company’s annual meeting in Seattle on Wednesday drew protesters and a contingent of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, who asked founder and CEO Jeff Bezos to commit to specific, science-based action on climate change. He would not be pinned down, instead pointing to the company’s existing initiatives and plans.
By tracking shares voted for 2019 proposals that addressed issues brought before the company in prior years, it’s possible to glean some insight into changing investor sentiments.
The shareholder proposal on climate reporting was favored by the owners of 21% of Amazon shares outstanding and entitled to vote. The last time a climate proposal came before Amazon shareholders, in 2012, 15% of shares were voted in favor. Proposals to report on sustainability were favored by 20% of share owners in 2016 and 21% in 2015.
Another measure, lowering the threshold of shareholders to call a special meeting from 30% to 20%, was favored by 25%. A similar proposal in 2011 received 26% support, the most for any Amazon shareholder proposal going back to at least 2009, according to a Seattle Times analysis of shareholder vote totals. (The analysis looked at shares voted “for” of each proposal as a percentage of the total number of shares outstanding and entitled to vote at each year’s meeting as reported in the company’s proxy statements. Other analyses exclude from the total the roughly 85 million shares for which no instructions were provided, called broker non-votes, producing higher approval percentages.)
Activist investors frustrated with Amazon’s engagement on a range of issues targeted the company with a wave of social, environmental and governance shareholder proposals this year.
A proposal to ban sales of Amazon’s facial-recognition technology to governments unless the board concluded using independent evidence that it “does not cause or contribute to actual or potential violations of civil and human rights” received the least support, with just 1.7% of outstanding and entitled shares voted in favor. There was substantially more support — 19.1% — for a proposal to study the civil-rights impacts of the technology.