The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Stefanie Spear,

Amazon, Comcast Seek to Silence Shareholder Voices on Fossil-Filled 401(k) Plans

Company retirement plans are out of alignment with corporate climate goals, forcing employees to invest in oil, coal, and deforestation.


Last week, Amazon and Comcast filed "no-action" motions with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to exclude As You Sow shareholder resolutions from company proxy statements. The two resolutions ask for reports assessing brand damage due to the conflicts between their high carbon 401(k) retirement plans and corporate climate goals. The "no-action" requests seek to silence shareholders asking a simple and compelling question about how the company operates under one set of policies for its operations and the opposite in its employee retirement investments.

"The Amazon retirement plan directs employee savings into companies burning down the Amazon," said As You Sow CEO Andrew Behar. "We are asking the board to assess the likelihood of brand damage as the company says one thing on climate and does another. We are pleased to see Amazon purchasing 100,000 electric vehicles and powering data centers with renewables, but how far does that go when the company invests $551 million in oil, coal, and fossil-fired utilities and $44 million in deforestation-risk agribusiness? Shareholders would like to see a coherent policy on climate across the company's operations and investments."

As You Sow, a nonprofit shareholder advocacy organization, publishes monthly report cards rating mutual funds and retirement plans as part of its Invest Your Values initiative. Amazon and Comcast use Vanguard Target Date funds as their default retirement options, resulting in the majority of plan investments flowing into funds holding companies flagged as major greenhouse gas emitters, and involved in Indonesia and Amazon rainforest destruction. While Amazon does offer one "sustainable option" for its employees, less than 2% of the plan's assets are invested in it. Yet, in interviews with Amazon employees and in polls with investors broadly, more than 70% say that they would like to invest sustainably and, specifically, not in oil, coal, and deforestation.

In multiple meetings with Amazon executives and senior attorneys, As You Sow advocates were told that the company intended to make no changes even though company representatives acknowledged their funds being out of alignment with company climate goals. The corporate giant also refused to improve training to help interested employees understand how to shift their savings to the one sustainable option.

"Comcast is really a laggard," continued Behar. "They have no sustainable option at all. Every investment in their plan gets a C or lower for fossil fuels on our Invest Your Values report card, and the majority get a D or F. With $924 million invested in fossil fuels and $61 million in deforestation-risk agribusiness we are asking the board for a report to explain the cognitive dissonance in these choices and how this looks to our customers and our employees. In addition, Comcast is headquartered in Philadelphia, a city with one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, and their default investment gets an F for Prison Industrial Complex due to investments in private prison companies."

In a meeting with senior Comcast executives, they stated their intention to make no changes regardless of possible brand damage, alienating their employees, and reducing their ability to attract and retain the best and the brightest.

Each company's "no-action" request makes the argument that shareholders do not have a right to ask these types of questions about conflicting corporate policies leading to material risk. As You Sow is challenging the "no-action" requests by filing briefs with the SEC to defend the rights of shareholders to not be silenced.

As You Sow is the nation's non-profit leader in shareholder advocacy. Founded in 1992, we harness shareholder power to create lasting change that benefits people, planet, and profit. Our mission is to promote environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies.