Hundreds of Amazon employees criticize firm’s climate stance


PTI, Jan 27, 2020, 4:10 PM IST

San Francisco: Hundreds of Amazon employees Sunday openly criticised the online retail giant’s environmental record, in violation of the company’s communications policy.

More than 300 signed a Medium blog post by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ), which is pushing the company to go further in its climate change mitigation plan which was announced with great publicity in September.

Group members have publicly criticised the company, and some have been warned that they could be fired.

“The protest is the largest action by employees since Amazon began threatening to fire workers for speaking out about Amazon’s role in the climate crisis,” the AECJ said.

“As Amazon workers, we are responsible for not only the success of the company but its impact as well. It’s our moral responsibility to speak up, and the changes to the communications policy are censoring us from exercising that responsibility,” said Sarah Tracy, a software development engineer at Amazon.

It is common for companies to demand restraint from employees when it comes to publicly discussing the firm’s activities and even more so when openly questioning them.

Amazon had nearly 650,000 permanent employees at the end of 2018, according to the company’s annual report.

While the environment and climate change was the focus of many of the posts on Sunday, Amazon was also criticised for other activities such as providing artificial intelligence capabilities to companies in the oil sector.

Amazon is often criticised over its carbon footprint because of the high energy consumption of its huge server farms for its lucrative cloud computing activities.

And it has built its success on the back of a huge road transport logistics network to ensure speedy deliveries, which generates a lot of greenhouse gases, the main culprit of climate change.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on September 19 last year made public environmental commitments, promising in particular that the firm would be carbon neutral by 2040.

The AECJ said this was insufficient and Amazon should be aiming for a 2030 target.

“This is not the time for silencing voices. We need policies that welcome more open discourse, more problem-solving, and more urgent and concerted action about climate change and its causes,” said Mark Hiew, a senior marketing manager at Amazon.

Amazon did not respond to an AFP request for a response but an article in the Bezos-owned Washington Post quoted spokesman Drew Herdener as saying Amazon encouraged employees to express themselves, but internally through the various platforms available to them.

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