The Ethics of $50,000 Monthly Advisory Roles

This impeachment season is quite a ride, isn’t it?! Donald Trump has massively crossed the line by pressuring foreign heads of state to dig up dirt on his political rivals. It’s a scandal to top the daily dose of inappropriate behavior we’ve come to expect. This one looks like it might stick.

I’m here to talk about the other corruption in the room. The 100% legal, grifting influencing kind. What did Hunter Biden actually do for Burisma Holdings in exchange for the $50,000/mo they reportedly gave him? Details are scarce. Vox tells us, “It is unclear what he did for the company. Burisma said at the time that Biden — a lawyer — would be “in charge of” a legal unit. However, Hunter contradicted this account to the New York Times in May 2019, stating, “At no time was I in charge of the company’s legal affairs.”

Hunter Biden’s role with Burisma was ostensibly “as a consultant with expertise in dealing with multinational regulations.” But it seems pretty obvious that his last name was a strong point in favor of his being hired. While that’s not illegal, it certainly doesn’t benefit our democracy. The fact that family members of prominent politicians can legally garner big paychecks based on their access puts our governing leaders at risk of influence. Continue reading “The Ethics of $50,000 Monthly Advisory Roles”

Why I’m Breaking Up with Amazon

Sorry kitty, we’ll find you a new box.

As a working mom, I’m awfully dependent on Amazon Prime. I actually would have been happy to consider Bezos my benevolent retail master, serving up hair gel, swim caps, last minute birthday gifts and light fixtures right to my door until the end of time. But, last week the board stonewalled 7,000+ employees who asked Amazon to do something simple: report publicly on their carbon emissions and set a plan to reduce them. It wasn’t actually a big ask and the response to it was disheartening. It’s a bridge too far for this social justice warrior. I’m out.

Amazon has stated that their sustainability program is customer-first with programs like frustration-free packaging, and clean energy for their data centers. These are both great programs, though their timelines and disclosures are not as stringent or complete as they could be. What’s made Amazon a real laggard on corporate sustainability is their lack of transparency. A good sustainability program by its very nature includes disclosures on everything from energy consumption to workplace injury rates. That’s for a few reasons: disclosures help outside stakeholders compare apples to apples between competitors, understand the true scope of the challenge a company faces, determine materiality or the core issues that are of utmost importance for a company to address, and drive improvements. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Most of all, carbon emissions, which directly influence climate change, THE defining issue of our time.

The most recent shareholder action was a continuation of efforts a group of Amazon employees calling themselves Amazon Employees for Climate Justice have taken to influence their boss. Last month, 3500 employees signed on to a public letter calling for climate action:

Our customer obsession requires climate obsession. This necessitates an immediate company-wide plan addressing climate change that demonstrates the following principles:

  1. Public goals and timelines consistent with science and the IPCC report. Emissions must be cut in half by 2030 from 2010 levels and reach zero by 2050. Goals must span all organizations and businesses, and cover the full supply chain.
  2. A complete transition away from fossil fuels rather than relying on carbon offsets.
  3. Prioritization of climate impact when making business decisions, including ending all custom solutions specifically designed for oil and gas extraction and exploration.
  4. Reduction of harm to the most vulnerable communities first. The pollution we generate is not equally distributed, and climate impact will be felt first and hardest by Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, particularly in the Global South. We must prioritize our pollution reduction in these communities.
  5. Advocacy for local, federal, and international policies that reduce overall carbon emissions in line with the IPCC report and withholding of support from policy makers who delay action on climate change.
  6. Fair treatment of all employees during climate disruptions and extreme weather events. Unsafe or inaccessible workplaces should not be a reason to withhold pay, terminate, or otherwise penalize employees — including hourly and contract workers.

The letter gained a lot of traction and as of this writing has over 7,700 employee sign-ons.

At last week’s shareholder meeting, the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice submitted a shareholder resolution calling for Amazon to provide a public report describing how it is “planning for disruptions posed by climate change, and how Amazon is reducing its company-wide dependence on fossil fuels.” The board voted the resolution down.

Shareholder meetings are interesting affairs. In the world of sustainability activism, they are an astute way to gain the attention of a company’s senior management with a relatively small amount of money. As You Sow uses them quite effectively to lobby companies of all sizes for environmental, animal welfare and human rights reforms.

It’s not terribly unusual for shareholders to vote down a shareholder resolution — shareholders like to let a board of directors make its own decisions about the best direction for the company. But this one, on climate, had a few investment advisory firms recommended their clients back the proposal. And employees are a key stakeholder group for any organization. However, the fact that Bezos refused to even listen to the proposal from 7,700 of his “greatest assets” is cowardly and sad.

If he won’t listen to them, maybe the sound of customers leaving will get his attention.

So where am I going?

Yes, I’ll try to shop local when I can, but let’s get real. I’m still a working mom, short on time, in need of balloons, peanut butter, bathroom cleaner, and nails in a single shopping trip. Realistically, I’m going big box.

Did you know that Target and Walmart both have Science-Based Target commitments to reduce their climate emissions?

They and 553 other companies have used the Science-Based-Target initiative to set assertive carbon reduction goals. Goals are considered “science-based” if they will ensure the company does its fair share to decarbonize their supply chains to the level required  to keep global temperature increase below 2°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures, as described in the Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Want to hear more?

Walmart has Project Gigaton, its commitment to cut more than one billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions through supplier engagement by 2030. How much is a gigaton? A bloody lot for one company to take responsibility for, that’s how much. Scientists estimate that we 7.5 billion earthlings can dump a maximum of 565 gigatons into the atmosphere TOTAL if we have any hope of avoiding temperature rises above two degrees. Conserving one gigaton would be a huge win and is a massive commitment for a single company.

Target has a whole suite of sustainability initiatives to serve its guests like:


So what do you say? Are you willing to vote with your dollars and send a message to Amazon? Tweet me and tell me about it at @jenboynton.

Image credit: Stephen Woods, Flickr CC 

Why Businesses Should Embrace the Collective Model

I love a good collective. Is it like cheese, where there isn’t a bad one? If you’ve spent time in Berkeley, California, you might have eaten delicious pizza from the Cheese Board Collective, an employee-owned cheese, bakery and pizza shop. They serve only one specialty pie every day – its vegetarian and piled with weird cheeses and veggies, and there’s a line out the door and around the block every single day. The collective has been in business since 1971. The workers are the owners and they make decisions collectively about the direction of the business.

“I love saying to people that this seems like an impossible business model, but it works, and it works very well.”
– Charlie (Longtime Cheese Board member)

Continue reading “Why Businesses Should Embrace the Collective Model”

How Good Communication Can Grow Your Business


The government is shut down, markets are faltering, there’s a coal baron up for head of the EPA. Things are rough. I think we’re in for a serious global political reckoning — a resource distribution of millennial proportions. To quote Lin Manuel Miranda writing for King George in Hamilton, “oceans rise, empires fall.” It’ll happen, and maybe it’s not a bad thing if you look at a big enough time horizon. The next decade or two might be rough though. 

And yet. I’ve got two young girls to raise. Continue reading “How Good Communication Can Grow Your Business”