|May 29, 2019|
Amazon employees challenging Jeff Bezos on climate change
|Last week Amazon shareholders rejected a proposal backed by almost 8,000 employees to deliver a strategy for climate change . The proposal would have required Amazon's board of directors to prepare a public plan for "disruptions posed by climate change" and demonstrate how the company would reduce its dependency on fossil fuels.|
Although Amazon has previously invested in renewable energy, employees argue that it is insufficient given the company's role in global carbon emissions. Amazon previously launched programs to address emissions, such as its Shipment Zero plan to have 50% of all deliveries with net zero carbon by 2030. There are also plans to make public the company's total carbon footprint after years of secrecy.
An open letter from these employees called for CEO Jeff Bezos and Amazon's Board of Directors to adopt a climate plan shareholder resolution that included setting goals for emission reductions, moving away from fossil fuels and prioritizing climate change in future business decisions. In the letter, employees argue that the Shipment Zero plan has limited impact on pollution:
Shipment Zero only commits to net carbon reductions, which allows us to continue to pollute; we recently 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 our diesel pollution which disproportionately harms communities of color."
Employees also want Amazon to transition to 100% renewable energy across the entire company. In its own statement, Amazon outlined its sustainability initiatives: "Amazon's sustainability team is using a science-based approach to develop data and strategies to ensure a rigorous approach to our sustainability work. We have a long term commitment to powering our global infrastructure using 100% renewable energy."
Amazon's public rejection of the climate initiative could be a dangerous move for a company that already lacks a green image . But Amazon Employees for Climate Justice plan on filing another climate change resolution at next year's shareholder meeting.
Below, meet some of the employees pushing their company to take action and their rationales for speaking out.
Brandy Russum, UX Designer
I worry about how the climate crisis will exacerbate social and racial tensions in this country. Historically poor communities and communities of color have been placed in environmentally vulnerable areas, so extreme weather only adds to that burden. Not everyone has the means to move from these areas, and the cost of being forcibly displaced from one's home is devastating. We need to figure out proactive ways to protect all of our of communities, so no one gets left behind in the storm."
Maren Costa, Principal Designer
I became a UX designer with a passion to use design and tech to make the world better. I have helped design a better UX for Amazon customers and I am raising two smart children who will hopefully do their part for the world too. When I joined Amazon Employees for Climate Justice I felt the uplifting power of collective action. I used to say "reduce, reuse, recycle." Now I say: Incite panic with whomever you can. Join forces. This crisis requires all of us---employees, customers, parents, humans---to collectively demand that our corporations do more to save our 8.7--- or 7.7---million species, including our own."
Roshni Naidu, Senior Technical Product Manager
As a child, Finding Nemo opened a new world---the Great Barrier Reef. I could not believe something so bustling could thrive beneath a seemingly calm surface. Years later, I finally saw the royal reefs and was shocked to find it mostly corroded due to climate change's warmer temperatures, which killed over half the Reef in three years. As if half of Germany disappeared. If we do not take drastic action now, more planetary treasures will die. How, then, can children learn why to wonder and wander?"
Kathryn Dellinger, Role Principal UX PM
Climate justice has been weighing on my mind for a while -- as the climate emergency intensifies, the impact it has on the people and places I love gets worse. Before the resolution, I was struggling with what I could do to help, and also struggling to reconcile my concern and passion for this cause with my own contributions to the problem, whether at home or at work. When I heard about the resolution and that it was filed by employees, it clicked -- this is the way to make a meaningful impact -- and I immediately jumped on board. As employees standing together, we have the power to make this a priority."
Rajit Iftikhar, Software Engineer
I have been a software developer at Amazon for nearly three years. What jumps out to me about the climate crisis is how inequitable the causes and effects of it are. Wealthier countries and people have emitted the most greenhouse gases while poorer countries and communities of color will suffer its worst consequences. As someone who is now in a position of privilege, I think it is my responsibility to do what I can where I can, and that happens to be pushing for emissions reduction at Amazon."
Emily Palmer, Senior Product Manager
I was raised in a Midwestern family farming business, and the threat climate change poses to food and farming security is a real concern for us. I got my MBA three years ago to develop skills that could support our business in adopting more sustainable practices. I then had the opportunity to join Amazon, and while it has been a great experience professionally, I have had ongoing concerns about our impact on the planet. The movement we have started here makes me optimistic about our future. Amazon truly has the talent, culture, and drive needed to become a leader in addressing the climate crisis."