Danish pension fund Pædagogernes Pension (PBU) is excluding Amazon from its investment portfolio over the issue of labour rights, divesting DKK300m (€40m) of the US online retail giant’s shares.
However, another Danish pension fund told IPE it is carrying on engaging with Amazon alongside other pension investors over workers’ rights issues, and holding onto its shares for the time being.
PBU, which covers education workers in social care, nursery and other settings, said in a statement on Friday that the decision to exclude the US e-commerce heavyweight, and sell the DKK300m of shares it held in the company, had been made after careful consideration.
“More than five years of dialogue and sustained pressure to get Amazon to recognise the right of its employees to join a union and negotiate wages and working conditions collectively has not produced the desired result,” said the DKK90bn pension fund.
Sune Schackenfeldt, chief executive officer of the labour-market pension fund, said: “With the decision to exclude Amazon, Pædagogernes Pension is demonstrating that labour rights are a focus area for us, just as they were when we excluded Walmart and Ryanair in the past.”
Danish labour-market pension funds are closely bound to the trade union movement, running schemes based on collective agreements between unions and employers.
PBU said Amazon had opposed an investor demand for an independent third-party assessment of the company’s respect for these fundamental labour rights and of the principle of remaining neutral and not interfering in the employee process.
The investor demand for an independent probe had been put forward at several consecutive shareholder meetings, the pension fund said.
“And it is a completely legitimate demand, to which Apple has recently given a commitment,” PBU added.
In 2022, the pension fund said, the shareholder proposal had garnered support from 27% of Amazon’s shares in free trade not owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
“The door to Amazon has been hermetically closed, and it has not been possible to enter into a dialogue about their problematic behaviour,” said Schackenfeldt.
“But if Amazon’s management opens the door, we would like to invest in the company again,” he said.
PBU said that although it would lose the opportunity to vote at Amazon’s general meeting by excluding the firm from its portfolio, it would still continue to support investor efforts in Denmark and abroad to get responses from the company.
Last November, PBU’s peers Sampension, PenSam and PKA announced they were in dialogue with Amazon about basic labour rights.
Mikael Bek, PenSam’s head of ESG, responded to questions from IPE this morning, saying: “We are still committed to the active ownership we are conducting together with like-minded investors, and we are confident that awareness of this important matter will increase as we push on for real change in Amazon.”
Asked if PenSam was considering taking a similar course to PBU, he said: “We are not currently divesting Amazon, as we still have faith in the engagement process we are in the midst of alongside a number of other institutional investors.”
A spokesman for Amazon told IPE the company had no specific response to the PBU statement, but he repeated a previous statement Amazon has made regarding trade unions:
“Our employees have the choice of whether or not to join a union. They always have.
“We already offer excellent pay, excellent benefits and excellent opportunities for career growth, all while working in a safe, modern work environment.
“There are plenty of things that we can keep doing better, both in our fulfilment centres and in our corporate spaces for employees, and that’s our focus - to keep getting better every day,” Amazon said in the statement.