Although conversations around climate change sometimes focus on individual actions people can take, the reality is that big corporations bear responsibility as well. A group of employees at Amazon knows that, and wants the company to take responsibility for its carbon footprint.
In a public letter to Jeff Bezos on Medium, over 4,500 Amazon employees called for company action around climate change.
“Amazon has the resources and scale to spark the world’s imagination and redefine what is possible and necessary to address the climate crisis,” the employees wrote. “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.”
Employees went on to say that Amazon hasn’t disclosed a company-wide plan to achieve zero carbon emissions within the timeline required by science and that the company’s 100 percent renewable energy goal has no deadline.
Perhaps most importantly, the employees called out Amazon for donating to climate-delaying legislators, stating, “we donated to 68 members of congress in 2018 who voted against climate legislation 100% of the time.”
Although Amazon has joined sustainability organizations like the Corporate Eco Forum and the American Council on Renewable Energy — that’s only performative if their political donations go against those organizations’ goals.
The employees are asking Amazon to make several changes, including: ending all custom solutions specifically designed for oil and gas extraction and exploration; undergoing a “complete transition” from fossil fuels; and reduce 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,” the employees said. “We must prioritize our pollution reduction in these communities.”
Environmental racism is a huge issue, so the Amazon employees recognizing that this harm isn’t distributed equally is a big deal. No conversation about climate change can hope to move forward without that basic understanding.
What’s unique about this letter is that all of the employees signed with their names. Often, due to fear of retaliation, people may choose to sign anonymously when petitioning or writing a letter to an employer.
“In our mission to become ‘Earth’s most customer-centric company,’ we believe our climate impact must be a top consideration in everything we do,” the employees wrote at the end of the letter. “We have the power to shift entire industries, inspire global action on climate, and lead on the issue of our lifetimes.”
This isn’t the first example of tech employees speaking up regarding their own companies. Only last week, Googlers Against Transphobia pushed Google to dismantle its “responsible” AI board after it appointed Heritage foundation president Kay Cole James.
Back in 2018, Google employees forced the company to pull out of Project Maven, a drone program for the defense department. Thousands of employees signed a petition, writing, “Google should not be in the business of war.”
The influence of tech companies reaches far outside of their own industry, as shown by Google and now Amazon. Watching tech employees continue to organize to hold companies accountable is powerful.