In September 2018, Ethical Consumer searched Amazon's US website and found that it listed stun guns, pepper sprays and knuckle dusters. None of these items were listed on the company's UK website, nor could they be shipped to the UK. Amazon lost half a mark under Arms & Military Supply for the sale of weapons.

Reference:

https://www.amazon.com/ (13 August 2018)

The report 'Worldwide Investments in Cluster Munitions: a shared responsibility', published in June 2017 by PAX, updated earlier versions published annually since 2009.

The report was a state-of-the-art report on financial institutions’ investment in companies that developed or produced cluster munitions, on financial institutions disinvesting from producers of cluster munitions and on states banning investments in cluster munitions.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) categorically bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. 94 countries signed the convention at the Oslo Signing Conference held 3-4 December 2008. The convention entered into force on 1 August 2010.

The report revealed that many financial institutions were still financing cluster munitions producers, despite the international consensus being that such weapons were unacceptable, given that civilians make up 98% of all cluster munitions victims.

The report stated that BlackRock had made an estimated US$ 1,249 million available to the companies on the red list since June 2013. BlackRock owned or managed shares of the companies to the amount of US$ 1,249 million.

The company lost a whole mark for secondary criticism under Arms and Military Supply.

Reference:

Worldwide Investments in Cluster Munitions: a shared responsibility - update (May 2017)

The report 'Worldwide Investments in Cluster Munitions: a shared responsibility', published in June 2016 by PAX, updated earlier versions published annually since 2009.

The report was a state-of-the-art report on financial institutions’ investment in companies that developed or produced cluster munitions, on financial institutions disinvesting from producers of cluster munitions and on states banning investments in cluster munitions.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) categorically bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. 94 countries signed the convention at the Oslo Signing Conference held 3-4 December 2008. The convention entered into force on 1 August 2010.

The report revealed that many financial institutions were still financing cluster munitions producers, despite the international consensus being that such weapons were considered unacceptable, given that civilians make up 98% of all cluster munitions victims.

The report stated that between June 2012 and June 2016 Vanguard had the following relationships with cluster munitions producers:

- shareholdings of approximately US$26 million owned or managed in Hanwha;

- shareholdings of approximately US$397 million owned or managed in Orbital ATK;

- shareholdings of approximately US$12 million owned or managed in Poongsan;

- shareholdings of approximately US$1,159 million owned or managed in Textron;

- bond holdings of approximately US$64 million owned or managed in Textron.

Reference:

Worldwide Investments in Cluster Munitions: a shared responsibility - update (May 2017)

In August 2018 Ethical Consumer contacted Amazon.com for information on its supply chain management. A questionnaire was returned, and Amazon’s website was viewed. The 'Responsible Sourcing' page included a Code of Conduct.
Supply chain policy (rudimentary)
Amazon stated “We require suppliers in our manufacturing supply chain and suppliers supporting Amazon's operations to comply with our Supplier Code of Conduct...Amazon also expects our suppliers to hold their suppliers and subcontractors to the standards and practices covered by our Supplier Code.” This Code was now available to view, which it had not been when last checked in 2016. It contained adequate clauses on child and forced labour, freedom of association, and discrimination. Working hours were only restricted to 60 per week, and there was no commitment to living wages. Amazon was considered to have a rudimentary supply chain policy.
Stakeholder engagement (poor)
No evidence could be found that Amazon engaged with external organisations to monitor its supply chain. It stated that "Suppliers must create a mechanism for workers to submit their grievances anonymously", but did not provide this itself. It stated in its questionnaire response that it was a member of The Responsible Labor Initiative, an initiative focusing on forced labour, which is part of the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA), formerly the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC). However, the Responsible Business Alliance appeared to be an industry-only body rather than a multi-stakeholder initiative and was therefore not considered to be adequate.
Auditing and reporting (poor)
Amazon stated “We regularly assess suppliers to monitor continued compliance and improvement; many sites are assessed multiple times a year, including for follow-up assessments to address specific findings. Amazon may terminate its relationships with any supplier that violates our Supplier Code or does not cooperate during assessments ... We require suppliers to promptly provide a detailed remediation plan and take corrective actions for deviations from this Supplier Code, and Amazon will track suppliers’ remediation efforts."
Ethical Consumer considered this audit plan to be vague, nor did the company disclose audit results or provide a commitment to audit its whole supply chain. Overall Amazon was considered to have a poor approach to auditing and reporting.
Difficult issues (poor)
No evidence could be found that Amazon was working on systemically addressing difficult issues found within supply chains such as payment of a living wage or illegal freedom of association. Overall Amazon was considered to have a poor approach to difficult issues.
Amazon therefore received Ethical Consumer’s middle rating for Supply Chain Management.

Reference:

https://www.amazon.com/ (13 August 2018)

The Independent reported on 17th August 2015 that a petition had been launched urging Amazon to stop selling books written by a controversial blogger who had called for rape committed in a private place to be legalised.

The anti-feminist blogger Daryush Valizadeh, or ‘Roosh V’, allegedly shared tips on how to ‘pick-up' women on his website, (such as “stop asking for permission”), and in his self-published books, which gave advice on how to have more sex with women in different countries.

One of Valizadeh’s blog posts in February was widely condemned for advocating the legalisation of rape in order to force women to take responsibility for their security and events “that are easily preventable”. It also claimed women should be made responsible for ensuring they were not raped, instead of teaching men not to rape.

By the publication date of the article almost 5,000 people had signed a Change.org petition urging Amazon to pull the “rape books” from the site, which were described as a “thinly veiled” guide to getting away with sexual assault.

Reference:

Roosh V: Amazon hit by petition to stop selling books from 'pick-up' blogger who called for rape to

In February 2018 Ethical Consumer downloaded factsheets for multiple funds from the company website www.blackrock.com. These factsheets listed top ten holdings as of January 2018, which included the following companies which had substantial criticism records on Ethical Consumer’s database:
BlackRock US Dynamic Fund
Wal-Mart (2.4% holding) - criticised under: Climate Change, Pollution and Toxics, Habitats and Resources, Animal Testing, Factory Farming, Animal Rights, Human Rights, Workers’ Rights, Irresponsible Marketing, Arms and Military Supply, Controversial Technologies (genetic engineering), Political Activities, Anti-Social Finance.
BlackRock UK fund
British American Tobacco (6.43% holding) - criticised under: Irresponsible Marketing, Anti-Social Finance
Rio Tinto (3.86% holding) - criticised under: Human Rights, Workers’ Rights, Controversial Technologies (nuclear power), Political Activities.
Royal Dutch Shell (3.45% holding) - criticised under: Climate Change, Pollution and Toxics, Habitats and Resources, Animal Testing, Animal Rights, Human Rights, Workers’ Rights, Political Activities, Anti-Social Finance.
Unilever (3.71% holding) - criticised under: Pollution and Toxics, Animal Testing, Factory Farming, Animal Rights, Human Rights, Workers’ Rights, Political Activities, Anti-Social Finance.
BlackRock therefore lost marks in all of these categories for having a financial relationship with a company criticised by Ethical Consumer.

Reference:

www.blackrock.com (21 February 2018)

In August 2018 Ethical Consumer viewed Amazon Com's SEC Filing SD form filed in May 2018.

It said "We are committed to avoiding the use of minerals that have fueled conflict, and we expect our suppliers to support our efforts to identify the origin of gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum used in products that we manufacture or contract to manufacture."

The document stated that the company had relected its policy in its Supplier Code of Conduct "which we communicate to our suppliers through our supplier screening process, contracts with suppliers, or by sending our suppliers a copy of the Supplier Code."

It also stated "we request information from our in-scope product suppliers through the Conflict Minerals Reporting Template prepared by the Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative."

There was a list of smelters and refiners however it did not include the conflict free status.

While Amazon had submitted its filing to the SEC it did not appear to belong to a initiative which was aimed at addressing the issue of conflict minerals. As a result it received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for its conflict minerals policy.

Reference:

www.amazon.com (30 June 2017)

In August 2018 Ethical Consumer viewed Amazon.com's SEC filing 10K which stated that the company had "entities in which we have a variable interest and of which we are the primary beneficiary, including certain entities in India and China". Both were considered by Ethical Consumer at the time of writing to be governed by oppressive regimes.

Reference:

https://www.amazon.com/ (13 August 2018)

In July 2015 Global Witness published a report called 'The New Snake Oil: Violence, Threats, and False Promises at the Heart of Liberia's Palm Oil Expansion'. The report focused on the land grabbing crisis in Liberia which was being driven by one of the country's biggest investors and supporters in the Government: Golden Veroleum. The report detailed how Liberians were reported to have been violently beaten, threatened and arrested for protesting the expansion of Golden Veroleum (GVL), a palm oil company that presides over one of the world’s biggest plantations in southern Liberia.

The report said “the company’s close ties to politicians have allowed it to aggressively expand its operations, protected by state security. During Liberia’s 2014 Ebola crisis, when local community support NGOs were staying at home for risk of contagion, GVL significantly – and suspiciously –
ramped up its expansion.”

The company is propped up by some of the world’s most popular banks including BlackRock who according to the report had an estimated investment of US$42,355,567 in GVL.

It said that since the end of Liberia’s civil war in 2003, the Government had made industrial agriculture a central pillar of the country’s development strategy, with ten percent of Liberia already earmarked for plantations – an area three times the size of Beijing. However resistance comes at a cost.

Global Witness stated that “GVL operations are protected by a combination of state forces and private security, and The New Snake Oil documents several reported instances of violent assaults and arbitrary arrests. There is significant political pressure on communities too, with those who dissent branded as “anti-development” and at least one Government staffer fired from his job for refusing to consent to expansion… This rapid agricultural expansion is taking place in a legal
vacuum. There are no laws in Liberia to govern how agriculture companies should be awarded contracts, how they should operate, or be held to account. Oversight is also lacking. At present there is no ministry that is mandated to regulate agricultural plantations, leaving Liberian NGOs to pick up the slack supporting communities as GVL expands onto their lands. When this monitoring was hampered by Liberia’s 2014 Ebola outbreak, GVL dramatically expanded its operations.
Between August and October 2014, at the height of the outbreak, GVL held a series of large community meetings signing over thousands of hectares of community land.”

Global Witness was calling on the Liberian Government, GVL, and the Government’s international partners to reform Liberia’s agriculture sector, protecting the rights of communities who are losing
their land. The Government should halt the further expansion of GVL’s plantation until it has investigated and held accountable those who may have beaten and intimidated community members and taken bribes.

The company lost a whole mark for secondary criticism under Human Rights.

Reference:

The New Snake Oil (July 2015)

In January 2016 Amazon was fined by the US Department of Labour for failing to report injuries in one of its warehouses.

A citation issued by the federal safety regulators says the online retailer failed to report at least 26 work-related illnesses and injuries at a New Jersey warehouse in 2015.

The fine came after a multi-month inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Amazon did not report workplace injuries and did not supply protective equipment to workers, who were exposed to dangers including amputation.

The company was fined $7,000.

A spokesperson for Amazon, told US news network CBS, "We take safety very seriously, we do not agree with the findings and will be contesting the citation".

OSHA said Amazon workers were exposed to "risk factors including stress from repeated bending at the waist and repeated exertions, and standing during entire shifts up to 10 hours, four days a week and sometimes including mandatory overtime shifts. Also, the on-site medical unit provided medical care beyond what was allowed by their licensing and certification, without the supervision of a board certified qualified medical professional licensed to practice independently."

Reference:

osha-slaps-amazon-for-not-reporting-job-injuries/ (13 January 2016)

In August 2018 Ethical Consumer viewed Amazon's website and found that it sold several brands of clothings through private labels. Due to the issues in the cotton supply chain clothing companies were expected to have a cotton sourcing policy. No policy was found.

According to Anti-Slavery international (ASI) website viewed by Ethical Consumer in August 2018, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan were two of the world’s largest exporters of cotton, and every year their governments forcibly mobilised over one million citizens to grow and harvest cotton. Due to the high proportion of cotton likely to have come from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and the prevalence of forced labour in its production, the company lost half a mark in the Workers Rights category.

The Organic Trade Association website, www.ota.com, stated in July 2018 that cotton covered roughly 2.78% of global arable land, but accounted for 12.34% of all insecticide sales and 3.94% of herbicide sales. Due to the impacts of the widespread use of pesticides in cotton production worldwide the company also lost half a mark in the Pollution & Toxics category.

According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), a non-profit pro biotech organisation, genetically modified cotton accounted for 80% of cotton grown in 2017. Due to the prevalence of GM cotton in cotton supply chains and the lack of any evidence that the company avoided it, it was assumed that some of the company's cotton products contained some GM material. As a result it lost half a mark under the Controversial Technology category.

Reference:

https://www.amazon.com/ (13 August 2018)

In July 2018 The Guardian reported, "workers left to suffer after warehouse injuries".
It stated that, "Guardian investigation reveals numerous cases of Amazon workers being treated in ways that leave them homeless, unable to work or bereft of income after workplace accidents".
"Amazon’s warehouses were listed on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s “dirty dozen” list of most dangerous places to work in the United States in April 2018."
"In many cases, Amazon workers are left to deal with the temp agency that hired them, shifting the burden of responsibility to a third party and making it more difficult for workers to receive proper treatment and compensation. "
Another Guardian article in May 2018, at www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/31/amazon-accused-of-treating-uk-…, stated that, "During the past three years at one Amazon site, ambulances were called 115 times. A similar-sized supermarket warehouse nearby had only eight call-outs".
A GMB Union national officer said, "Hundreds of ambulance call-outs, pregnant women telling us they are forced to stand for 10 hours a day, pick, stow, stretch and bend, pull heavy carts and walk miles – even miscarriages and pregnancy issues at work."
The company lost a half mark under Worker's Rights.

Reference:

Amazon injuries (July 2018)