Why Amazon shareholders back plastics resolution | Plastics News

2022-06-25 07:53:20 By : Ms. Linda Zhu

Almost half of Amazon shareholders have voted for a resolution asking the online retailer to report on how much plastic packaging it uses and to detail efforts to cut back.

Advocates for the proposal, which was approved by 48.9 percent of shareholders at the company's annual meeting May 25, portrayed it as sending a "clear signal" on plastics packaging.

As You Sow, a Berkeley, Calif.-based green investment advisory firm, said in a May 31 news release that when shares owned by Amazon's management are removed from the tally, 59 percent of shareholders voted for the resolution.

"This vote supported by a majority of non-management shareholders confirms that a wide range of mainstream investors are challenging Amazon to elevate the issue of plastic pollution and develop credible solutions to the global plastic pollution crisis now," said Conrad MacKerron, senior vice president at AYS.

"Amazon should respond swiftly to the clear signal sent by shareholders by disclosing how much plastic it uses and devising a plan to significantly reduce its reliance on single-use plastic packaging such as its ubiquitous blue and white plastic bubble mailers," he said.

Amazon, for its part, had urged shareholders to reject the resolution, saying that it's committed to reducing plastics waste and has taken steps to reduce the environmental impact of its packaging.

For example, the company said in a report to shareholders that last year it increased recycled content in its plastic bags from 25 percent to 50 percent, and in its plastic padded bags from 15 percent to at least 40 percent.

It also said it's rolling out what it considers as a more environmentally friendly paper mailing envelope.

"We expect to replace the use of mixed [paper and plastic] mailers with a recyclable paper padded mailer by the end of 2022," it said. "We have also reduced our use of material like plastic film and single-use plastic."

The company said it was using machine learning algorithms to identify packages where it can switch out padded plastic for plastic bags, cutting plastics use by 30 percent, and expanding plastic film recycling drop off sites.

"We recognize that plastic film is a difficult material to process, and most municipal recycling programs do not accept it," the company said.

An environmental group that's part of the same campaign said it wants Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, to be more transparent with data.

"Amazon is a data-driven company and has indicated to Oceana that it already measures its plastic use," said Matt Littlejohn, senior vice president with Oceana. "It's time for the company to be transparent about its plastic packaging and commit to quantifiable and time-bound companywide goals to reduce it."

The plastics resolution received the most votes among multiple proposals from shareholders on a range of issues, Oceana said.

By comparison, in 2021, a similar investor resolution won support from about 35 percent of Amazon shareholders.

The vote this year comes amid increased shareholder activity around plastics issues at public companies.

Earlier in May, just over half of Phillips 66 shareholders said they wanted the company to study the risks of investing in virgin plastic production. About one-third of ExxonMobil shareholders voted for a similar resolution a week later.

The Amazon shareholder vote came as California's state Assembly for the first time voted for a plan to restrict flexible plastic packaging in online shipping.

The legislation, AB 2026, passed the Assembly on a 41-26 vote and moves to the state Senate. It would prohibit online retailers from using single-use plastic shipping envelopes, cushioning or void fill in the state.

Similar legislation did not pass the state Assembly last year, but supporters made changes to reduce some industry opposition, exempting packaging for meat, fresh produce, drugs and medical devices, said Ashley Blacow-Draeger, a policy manager for Oceana.

She called the legislation "a promising signal that the legislature is listening to Californians who overwhelmingly support state policies that reduce single-use plastic, especially when it comes to reducing plastic packaging in online shopping."

But the legislation is opposed by industry groups, which argue it will result in less recycling, more product damage and "effectively bans one of the most environmentally favorable [methods of] protection available today for shipping products to and from California."

"Flexible mailers for e-commerce packaging are lightweight and take up less space in transport, leading to a decrease in negative environmental impacts caused by transportation," the Flexible Packaging Association said on Twitter, urging its members to contact California lawmakers and oppose the legislation.

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