Near majority of Amazon shareholders (48.9%) have approved an As You Sow proposal at the company’s annual meeting last week, which called for plans to cut plastic used for its packaging.

The shareholder resolution asked the world’s largest online retailer to disclose how much plastic packaging it uses, and report on ways it can significantly reduce the overall use of plastic for packaging. 

More than 181 million shares with a market value exceeding $387 billion supported the proposal, providing the highest level of support among 15 shareholder proposals on social and environmental issues on this year’s Amazon proxy statement.

When management and insider shares are discounted, the proposal was approved by an estimated 59 per cent of non-company related shares. 

The proposal stated that Amazon’s substantial and growing use of plastic packaging exposes the company to increased financial and reputational risk from millions of tonnes of plastic, which end up in oceans and the environment, and that the company lagged its peers on disclosure and commitment to reducing plastic used for packaging. 

At the heart of the plastic pollution are single-use plastics, like those generated by Amazon packaging.

Amazon has not yet disclosed how much plastic it uses, but is believed to be one of the largest corporate users of flexible plastic packaging, with the heavy use of plastic e-commerce mailers, which are generally not recycled. 

A recent report by the non-profit group Oceana estimated that Amazon generated 599 million pounds of e-commerce plastic packaging in 2020.

The company said the report overestimated its plastics use, but has declined to disclose its actual e-commerce plastic usage, or the amount of plastic used in its 400+ private-label brand operations. 

“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 As You Sow.

“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.

“The company lags retailing peers like Target Group and Walmart who have disclosed the amount of plastic they use, and made public commitments to As You Sow to reduce the use of virgin plastic for packaging by 2025.”

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