Dutch pension asset manager APG has co-filed a shareholder resolution calling on Amazon to publicly disclose information about the company’s efforts to protect workers’ health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Its co-lead is New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, on behalf of three New York City pension funds. APG is acting on behalf of its pension fund clients, including €419.7bn public sector pension scheme ABP.
The investors said the move to file a proposal comes after a failure by Amazon independent directors to respond to a similar request for information from major shareholders in May. According to the investors, information the company did provide was not satisfactory.
APG said Amazon previously announced it was investing billions in the safety and health of its workforce and that the investors were asking the company to demonstrate with hard data that investments in worker health and safety measures were genuinely keeping workers healthy and safe.
Anna Pot, head of responsible investments, Americas, at APG, said that although Amazon’s disclosure of infection rates could be seen as a signal of company’s commitment to follow through on planned COVID-19 response initiatives, “what really matters is the impact”.
“As a long-term, responsible investor in Amazon, APG wants to understand how effective these billion-dollar initiatives have been,” she said. “Is it working? Are its employees actually safe?
“By providing meaningful insight into the outcomes of their efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, Amazon could demonstrate responsible business practices and set the standard for other companies. We want them to be accountable for doing their part to protect their workers and the communities they serve.”
A 2020 report from the Center for Investigative Reporting found some Amazon warehouses were COVID-19 hotspots and that the turnover rate for frontline employees was double the industry average.
The proposal is for Amazon’s 2021 annual shareholder meeting.
Asked for a comment, a spokesperson for Amazon said: “Amazon prioritises the safety and health of its employees and has invested millions of dollars to provide a safe workplace, which is why at the onset of the pandemic we moved quickly to make more than 150 COVID-19 related process changes. Today, we continue to innovate, learn, and improve the measures we have in place to protect our teams.”
The spokesperson listed various items it was supplying such as masks, larger janitorial teams, and additional handwashing stations, and said the company also now had the capacity to conduct tens of thousands of COVID tests a day across hundreds of sites.
Investors keep up tailings dam momentum
The Church of England Pensions Board (CEPB), the Council on Ethics of the Swedish national pension funds, and the co-convenors of the Global Tailings Review have partnered to create an independent international institute to support the implementation of the global industry standard on tailings management.
The standard was launched in August and follows the January 2019 Brumadinho tailings dam disaster that resulted in the deaths of 270 people.
To underpin the standard, CEPB and the AP funds’ council on ethics have written to over 350 mining companies – on behalf investors with $21trn in assets under management – asking them to confirm on their company websites their support for the standard and to set out a timeline for their intended compliance with it.
John Howchin, secretary general, council on ethics of the Swedish public pension funds said the creation of an independent international institute was “an essential next step to addressing the legacy of the Brumadinho disaster”.