New scorecard grades Amazon and other companies on their 401ks


In 2019, 3,500 Amazon workers signed an open letter to then-CEO Jeff Bezos, urging him to undertake an efficient local weather change plan. A number of months later, the billionaire CEO revealed a set of sustainability goals, most crucially promising net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. However, in the identical yr, a lot of those self same Amazon workers could not have been conscious that the cash they have been placing away for retirement in their worker 401k plans was being invested within the very companies which can be contributing most closely to local weather change.

That revelation comes up in deep-dive into the 401k plans provided by the e-commerce big, carried out by As You Sow, a nonprofit that promotes company social duty by shareholder advocacy. The group has suite of on-line instruments, known as Make investments Your Values, to make it simpler for workers with sophisticated retirement plans to study how their funds work, and to make sure the cash they’re incomes and investing goes to causes they care about—or, a minimum of, not going to harmful ones equivalent to fossil fuels, arms producers, and personal prisons.

Its latest tool evaluates particular companies’ 401k choices. “There’s $10 trillion of property, owned by 100 million folks, that should be checked out,” says Andy Behar, As You Sow’s CEO. The plan is to carry out the evaluation for each S&P 500 firm, but it surely’s began with Amazon, evaluating data from its filings for the yr 2019. (The corporate’s funds have been dealt with by Vanguard that yr, although it has since moved to Fidelity, however the funding choices stayed the identical.)

[Screenshot: Invest Your Values]

As You Sow found that 25 of the 26 funds out there to Amazon workers contained largely unsustainable companies. Fifty-two % of Amazon employees enrolled within the plan picked the default option, as a result of it’s the simplest. That fund despatched $360 million of workers’ money in 2019 to fossil fuels companies, together with Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Royal Dutch Shell. What’s extra: “We don’t assume that Amazon workers have a clue,” Behar says.


Within the subsequent week, As You Sow will likely be launching a collection of social media adverts to Amazon workers, focusing on local weather and the destruction of the rainforests, to induce them to study extra about the place their cash goes, and to take motion. “We’re going to say: have you learnt that you simply personal this, and is that this what you need?” Behar says. He’ll additionally ship a letter on to CEO Andy Jassy, to request to fulfill him and stroll him by the scorecard.

These workers who’re uncomfortable with the scenario may “self-direct” their funds, says Andrew Montes, As You Sow’s director of digital methods, which means they’d deal with the precise shares they’re investing in, however that’s labor-intensive. “We expect it’s the plan’s duty to offer sustainable investments straight,” he says. If a sustainable fund doesn’t exist (and he notes Amazon solely had one plan satisfactory as sustainable, solely carrying about 1.8% of workers’ cash), Behar means that workers ought to be part of with other colleagues, kind a coalition, and communicate to monetary directors straight, to place strain on them to create a default fund that’s sustainable.

The group has additionally launched an analysis of Comcast’s funds, and will subsequent search to teach its workers about the place their cash goes (Behar says a lot of it’s invested within the jail industrial complicated). What workers also needs to know is that, morality apart, it’s additionally a savvy monetary resolution to spend money on environmentally and socially pleasant shares, a lot of which now present an important return on funding—whereas “vice shares” include a number of danger components. The ESG motion is rising, Behar says, and persons are lastly coming spherical to the concept that: “We need to put our cash into companies which can be really main,” he says, “and we don’t need to put our cash into the laggards.”