Amazon to conduct racial equity audit led by former AG Loretta Lynch

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Andy Jassy, chief executive officer of Amazon.Com Inc., during the GeekWire Summit in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021.
David Ryder | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Amazon will conduct a racial equity audit of its hourly workforce after shareholders urged the company to provide more transparency into how its policies impact diversity, equity and inclusion.

The company said in a recent securities filing that the audit will evaluate “any disparate racial impacts on our nearly one million U.S. hourly employees resulting from our policies, programs and practices.” The audit will be led by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, now a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, as well as other attorneys from the law firm.

Amazon said it will make the results of the audit public. The company declined to say when it expects the audit to be finished.

Shareholders have been pressing Amazon to commission an independent review of how the company may contribute to racial inequities. New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli refiled a proposal for a racial equity audit to be voted on at Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting next week.

“Amazon has taken some measures to address racial justice and equity, including committing financial resources and publishing workforce diversity data,” the shareholder proposal states. “However, Amazon faces controversies, some significant, that pose various risks and raise questions related to the company’s overall strategy and the company’s alignment with its public statements.”

DiNapoli submitted a similar measure at last year’s annual meeting. It won support from about 44% of Amazon’s shareholders but was ultimately rejected by investors.

Amazon has recommended that shareholders vote against the resolution because it’s conducting its own audit. The company said it’s also launched initiatives to address concerns of diversity and equity among its workforce, including examining the systems it uses to hire, develop and promote employees.

Amazon follows Tyson Foods and Citigroup in agreeing to conduct an audit of whether its practices contribute to racial inequities. Amazon shareholders have taken a renewed focus on the company’s workplace policies amid the coronavirus pandemic and a surge of worker activism among its warehouse and delivery employees.

Amazon will also face a shareholder vote next week calling for an independent audit of its treatment of warehouse workers. The proposal cites reports of rising injury rates inside Amazon warehouses, and a recent citation by Washington State’s workplace safety regulator, as evidence of workers “being subjugated to unsafe working conditions and unfair treatment.”

Amazon urged shareholders to vote down the resolution, pointing to its investments in workplace safety.

WATCH: Watch CNBC’s full interview with Amazon CEO Andy Jassy on his first annual letter to shareholders

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