Voting on an assessment of Amazon workers' freedom of association and collective bargaining rights

The issue 

A shareholder resolution was tabled requesting that Amazon commission an independent, third-party assessment of the company’s adherence to its stated commitment to workers’ freedom of association and collective bargaining rights, as expected under international norms and as outlined in Amazon’s Human Rights Principles. 

The shareholder resolution noted the ‘overwhelming negative media coverage in the US and internationally accusing the company of interfering with workers’ exercise of their rights through anti-union tactics including allegations of intimidation, retaliation and surveillance’ to support its case. 

The resolution also cited that regulators and the courts have ordered remedies on a number of occasions and promoted the view that the company’s own reporting has failed to explain how its practices align with international norms. 

In accordance with the guidance in our voting policy, we look carefully at shareholder resolutions seeking to enhance the protection and relationship of the company with employees and other stakeholders, where in the interests of long-term investors. 

Effective employee relations may promote business models that sustain value over the long term and controversies associated with these failures can erode value. 

Our view is that failing to adhere to international human rights standards (if true) exposes the company to reputational risks, risks to the company’s employees, and risks to the company’s operations. International norms is one of our priority themes, making this a concern of particular relevance. 


In line with ISS advice, we voted in favour of the shareholder proposal to issue a third-party report tackling this issue. 

The board’s assertions and the company’s own reporting regarding the effectiveness of its safety policies and procedures appears not to have assuaged all shareholder concerns and/or media interest. 

An independent report may lead to improved practice (to the extent there are areas requiring remediation) or support management’s view, ending these assertions (to the extent there are no issues). Either way, this should protect value for our clients. 


The shareholder resolution was backed by 35.2% of all votes cast, the second highest of any of the shareholder resolutions tabled. 

Our position is consistent with our voting policy to support votes tabled by shareholders which encourage companies to tackle financially material sustainability issues. 

In spite of this vote failing to garner enough support for the report to be commissioned, we note that such a sizeable vote against management recommendations should help ensure that management continues to keep this issue front of mind.