6 min read

Over 4,520 Amazon employees and counting are organizing against Amazon’s continued profiting from climate devastation. Yesterday, they signed an open letter addressed to Jeff Bezos and Amazon board of directors asking for a company-wide action plan to address climate change and an end to the company’s reliance on dirty energy resources. This coalition is one of the largest employee-led movement for climate change in the tech industry.

The letter states, “Climate change is an existential threat. Amazon’s leadership is urgently needed. We’re a company that understands the importance of thinking big, taking ownership of hard problems, and earning trust. These traits have made Amazon a top global innovator but have been missing from the company’s approach to climate change. We believe this is a historic opportunity for Amazon to stand with employees and signal to the world that we’re ready to be a climate leader.

The Amazon Employees for Climate Justice group grew out of a shareholder resolution co-filed by 28 current and former employees in December. Previously reported by the New York Times, tech workers used the stock grants they receive as compensation to agitate a climate change. Per the official press release, Amazon employees had multiple meetings with the leadership, asking for a company-wide climate plan and for the Board to support the resolution. They received no agreement in response and were informed that the Board will be printing a statement of opposition in the shareholder ballot that will be released in the coming days. What started as a 28 worker congregation grew out to be a 3500 signed letter in less than 48 hours of its publishing and about 4500+ at the time of writing.


Climate change is real, and we need a plan

The letter asks Amazon to release a company-wide climate plan inline with these principles:

  • “Public goals and timelines to reduce emissions that are consistent with science and the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
  • A complete transition off of fossil fuels rather than relying on carbon offsets.
  • Prioritizing climate impacts in business decisions, including ending partnerships with fossil fuel companies that accelerate oil and gas exploration and extraction.
  • Reducing harm caused by Amazon operations to vulnerable communities first.
  • Advocacy for local, federal, and international policies to reduce carbon emissions and withholding support from policymakers who delay action on climate change.
  • Fair treatment of all employees during extreme weather events linked to climate change.”

“Tech workers know the world is facing a climate emergency that is causing devastation to communities around the world, and vulnerable communities least responsible for the climate crisis are already paying the highest price,” said Emily Cunningham, a User Experience Designer who co-filed the resolution and signed the letter. “We have a responsibility, as one of the largest companies in the world, to account for the sizeable contributions we are making toward accelerating climate change.”

Amazon is failing in its plans to Go Green

In 2014, following suite Apple, Facebook, and Google, Amazon announced that it would power data centers with 100 percent renewable energy. However, since 2018 Amazon has reportedly slowed down its efforts to use renewable energy using only 50 percent. It has also not announced any new deals to supply clean energy to its data centers since 2016, according to a report by Greenpeace, and it quietly abandoned plans for one of its last scheduled wind farms last year.

AWS for Oil & Gas initiative

The main issue central to the letter is the demand to end Amazon Web Services initiative that is building custom solutions to help fossil fuel companies accelerate oil and gas discovery and extraction.

Per an investigation by Gizmodo, the company has built partnerships with clients in the oil and gas industry such as BP, Shell, and Halliburton offering their machine learning and data services “for enhanced exploration, IoT-enabled oilfield automation, and remote site data transportation.” This is ironical! A company which is marketing plans to go full on renewable energy has an AWS for Oil & Gas initiative devoted to helping fossil fuel companies accelerate and expand oil and gas extraction–harvest non-clean energy resources. In it’s February 2019 report, Greenpeace wrote, “Despite Amazon’s public commitment to renewable energy, the world’s largest cloud computing company is hoping no one will notice that it’s still powering its corner of the internet with dirty energy,”

“Partnering with fossil fuel companies demonstrates that climate is not a priority for Amazon leadership,” said Jamie Kowalski, a Software Developer who signed the letter. “The science is clear: we must keep fossil fuels in the ground to avert catastrophic warming. How can we say we care about the climate when we’re accelerating extractive processes that deliberately ignore the reality of the threat we face?”

Shipment Zero

In February 2018, Amazon announced the Shipping Zero initiative, through which Amazon says it aims to make 50 percent of its shipments carbon neutral by 2030. However, Shipment Zero only commits to net carbon reductions. Recently Amazon ordered 20,000 diesel vans whose emissions will need to be offset with carbon credits. Offsets can entail forest management policies that displace indigenous communities, and they do nothing to reduce diesel pollution which disproportionately harms communities of color. Some in the industry expressed disappointment that Amazon’s order is for 20,000 diesel vans — not a single electric vehicle.

“Amazon’s Shipment Zero announcement is the first step, and it showed the positive impact that employee pressure can have,” said Maren Costa, a Principal User Experience Designer who co-filed the resolution. “We all—individuals, corporations, governments—simply need to do more. Amazon needs a company-wide plan that matches the scale and urgency of the climate crisis, and Shipment Zero is not nearly enough. That’s why we’re asking all Amazon workers to join us by signing our letter to Jeff Bezos and the Board.”

Amazon also says it will also be disclosing its carbon footprint sometime this year. However, it will not be submitting its disclosure to the nonprofit Carbon Disclosure Project for independent verification; Amazon says it is “developing its own approach to tracking and reporting carbon emissions,” according to CNBC.

The letter also called out Amazon’s donation to 68 members of Congress in 2018 who voted against climate legislation 100% of the time.

A lot of other rights groups have spoken publicly on their solidarity with Amazon employees.

Google Walkout coalition group which protests sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency and a biased workplace at Google also showed their support.

Microsoft Workers 4 good also appreciated the stand taken by Amazon employees and called for all employees to encourage their employers to take actions for climate change

In a statement to Verge, an Amazon spokesperson highlighted company initiatives, like work to reduce the carbon footprint of shipments, and described Amazon’s commitment to environmental issues as “unwavering.”

“Amazon’s sustainability team is using a science-based approach to develop data and strategies to ensure a rigorous approach to our sustainability work,” the spokesperson said. “We have launched several major and impactful programs and are working hard to integrate this approach fully across Amazon.”

If you work at Amazon and want to sign the letter,
Email [email protected] from your Amazon work email with the subject line “signature”.
In the body of the email, include your name and job title as you’d like it to appear on the list of signatories

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