Amazon building Amazon employeesin past years have also pushed for change on human resources issueslike benefits for transgender employees, and back-up daycare forparents. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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The employee activism that has roiled SiliconValley in recent years has arrived at Amazon.com Inc.

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When shareholders gather Wednesday at Seattle's Fremont Studiosfor the company's annual meeting, a proposal supported by some7,600 employees will call for Amazon to write a public reportdetailing how it's preparing for climate-related disruptions and plans to reducedependence on the fossil fuels blamed for much of the Earth'swarming.

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Related: Financial crisis may come from climate risks,insurers worry

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Amazon opposes the resolution, citing ongoing efforts to reducethe amount of packaging it ships to consumers as well asinvestments in wind, solar energy and other alternatives. But twomonths after the proposal was filed, the company disclosed aninitiative to eliminate carbon output from half of its customerdeliveries by 2030.

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“I have no doubt that was because of us,” says Weston Fribley,an Amazon software engineer who helped organize the resolution andlike other employees is a shareholder by virtue of his stockgrants. Fribley, however, says the company's response doesn't gofar enough to withdraw the proposal.

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In the past two years, employee activism has forced tech giantsto reverse course on corporate initiatives. After employees atGoogle raised concerns about its bid for military contracts, theAlphabet Inc. search giant backed out of a U.S. Defense Departmentdrone program and decided not to bid on a contract to build cloudservices for the Pentagon. Employees of Microsoft Corp. andSalesforce.com Inc. pressured executives about their companies'dealings with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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Emboldened Amazon employees have taken on other issues, recentlyfiring off an internal letter critical of their employer's pushinto controversial facial recognition technology. Amazon'sRekognition software, which is being used by a sheriff's office inOregon to identify suspects, is also on Amazon shareholders'ballots in the form of one proposal asking for an external reporton the risks of the technology, and another that would ban its saleto governments. By coincidence, Wednesday is also the date of aU.S. House of Representatives hearing on facial recognitiontechnology's impact on civil rights.

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Amazon employees in past years have also pushed for change onhuman resources issues like benefits for transgender employees, andback-up daycare for parents. But the current climate changecampaign is the rare instance when workers at the technologygiant's headquarters have taken a public stand for change insidethe company.

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“We've seen instances at other companies of employees taking astand on something, but not in putting their names behind it, notin these numbers,” Fribley says.

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One employee not involved in the climate issue said the efforthas emboldened others inside Amazon to agitate for change. Amazon'sinternal process for workplace and company policy shifts can beslow, and leave workers feeling ignored, the employee says. Theclimate change group took a cowboy approach without facingrepercussions, sending a message that employees can be moreoutspoken about Amazon than most are comfortable doing, theemployee said.

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Amazon executives asked the employees to back down, both beforeand after announcing the “Shipment Zero” carbon cutting initiative.At the second meeting, Kara Hurst, Amazon's sustainability chief,who oversees some 200 people working on everything fromemissions-tracking models to installation of solar panels onwarehouse roofs, basically said the company was working on it,Fribley says.

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A report earlier this year by Gizmodo on an aggressive marketingcampaign by Amazon's cloud-computing division to sell its wares tothe oil and gas industry raised doubts among some employees on howfar along that process was.

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“This shows why we needed a comprehensive plan,” Fribley says.Amazon's approach to sustainability “can't be a patchwork ofprograms, countered by programs in other areas of the company.”

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Amazon, in a statement outlining its sustainability initiatives,portrayed its work on the matter as more comprehensive. “We havelaunched several major and impactful programs and are working hardto integrate this approach fully across Amazon,” the companysaid.

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Shareholder advisory firms Institutional Shareholder Servicesand Glass Lewis recommended investors get behind the resolution.Both say Amazon's disclosures on sustainability issues lag behindlarge peers in technology and retail.

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The employees say climate change isn't an abstract concept, forthem, or the company. Their resolution cites evidence that extremeweather events are already threatening Amazon's operations, fromrecord rainfall in Australia that knocked an Amazon Web Servicesdata center offline, to wildfires in and around Washington Statethat made the air in Amazon's Seattle hometown hazardous at timeslast summer.

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Rebecca Sheppard, who works in Amazon's air cargo operations,commutes to Seattle by ferry from nearby Bainbridge Island, andrecalls coughing up black particles after one particularly bad day.“There's not a more post-apocalyptic image than being surrounded bysmoke and not able to breathe outside,” she says.

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Amazon encourages employees to not be shy about proposing big,creative ideas, she adds. But if those proposals don't fit with topgoals articulated by Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos and hislieutenants, they aren't likely to become a priority.

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Sheppard's hope is the employee groundswell causes Amazon brassto bump climate change up on their list of priorities.

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“The enthusiasm is overwhelming,” Sheppard says. “If theresolution doesn't pass, we'll be back.”

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