The group calling itself ‘Amazon Employees for Climate Justice’ posted the letter on Medium Wednesday addressing CEO Jeff Bezos and the Board of Directors of Amazon. The group called on the company for an action plan on climate change outlining the principles in the letter.
“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 group 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.”
More than 4,500 employees had signed on at 6 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.
The letter followed two meetings between Amazon leadership and concerned employees on the company’s climate plans, but without any clear outcomes, Amazon software engineer and letter co-signer Rajit Iftikhar confirmed to CNN. The group said in a press release that the letter had a greater impact when current employees along with 28 former employees filed a shareholder resolution in December 2018. However, the company told them that it would print an opposition statement to that resolution soon.
“This campaign started with a dozen workers coming together to take action on our climate crisis. Now we have thousands of employees from all over the world who are publicly asking for a company-wide plan that matches the scale and urgency of the problem,” Iftikhar wrote in the press release. “We’ve been blown away by the amount of support and passion there is for making Amazon a leader on climate justice.”
As noted by The New York Times, the Amazon workers’ movement is remarkable from two aspects. Firstly, tech workers rarely give their names in agitation for change. Secondly, using a shareholder resolution represents the growth of an emerging tactic for employees to influence their employers.
Historically, outside groups used this tactic, but at recent times, tech employees with stock options as part of their benefits have been using the tactic increasingly. There are more than 65,000 corporate and tech employees in Amazon in the U.S., but other than Seattle or the Bay Area, the number of people signed the letter so far is more compared to the number employed at any one Amazon location.
The letter writers hope that Amazon will adopt the following policies:
- Having consistent climate goals as per the IPCC report that emissions should be cut down to half by 2030 than 2010 levels.
- The complete phase-out from the use of fossil fuel.
- Giving priority to climate while making business decisions.
- Set to reduce harm to vulnerable communities.
- Advocating for emissions reduction policies of the government.
- Fair compensation for employees affected by extreme weather events.
Some specific Amazon policies and actions are mentioned in the letter like the company’s donations to lawmakers denying climate and an AWS for Oil and Gas initiative helping in expansion and rapid extraction in oil and gas companies.
Following the company’s current sustainability pledge, Shipment Zero, packages would emit net zero carbon and shipping emit 50% net zero carbon by 2030. However, its impact would not be effective in the long-run as per the letter. The letter writers also emphasized that due to dependence on carbon offsets indigenous communities could get displaced resulting in poorly thought out forest-preservation schemes and thus would fail to minimize air pollution.
“Amazon’s Shipment Zero announcement is a first step, and it showed the positive impact that employee pressure can have,” Principal User Experience Designer and letter signer Maren Costa said in the press release. “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.”
Responding to the letter, Amazon told CNN about having 200 scientists, engineers and product designers working on sustainability.
“We have launched several major and impactful programs and are working hard to integrate this approach fully across Amazon,” the company said in a statement. “Our dedication to ensuring that our customers understand how we are addressing environmental issues has been unwavering — we look forward to launching more work and sharing more this year.”