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Published on April 15th, 2019 | by Steve Hanley

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6,034 Amazon Employees Demand Company Climate Change Plan

April 15th, 2019 by  


Oh, how bitter is the day when the serfs rise up and to make demands upon those who reside in the manor house! Last week, more than 6,000 Amazon employees signed and published an open letter to sexter in chief Jeff Bezos and the board of directors of the company. Here’s what they had to say to the powers that be and muckety mucks in the C Suite.

Amazon carbon footprint

We, the undersigned 6,034* Amazon employees, ask that you adopt the climate plan shareholder resolution and release a company-wide climate plan that incorporates the principles outlined in this 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.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.

Climate change is an existential threat. The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report predicts that a warming of 2° Celsius, which we’re currently on track to surpass, will threaten the lives of hundreds of millions of people and put thousands of species at risk of extinction [1,2] . We’re already seeing devastating climate impacts: unprecedented flooding in India and Mozambique, dry water wells in Africa, coastal displacement in Asia, wildfires and floods in North America, and crop failure in Latin America [3,4,5,6,7,8,9]. Vulnerable communities least responsible for the climate crisis are already paying the highest price [10,11].

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. For example:

    • We haven’t disclosed a company-wide plan to reach zero carbon emissions within the timeline required by science. Our goal to reach 100% renewable energy does not have a date for completion. In addition, Shipment Zero does not commit to a decrease in emissions compared to current levels. Given Amazon’s rate of growth, reaching 50% net-zero shipments by 2030 could still be an increase in emissions compared to today [12].
    • 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 [13]. 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 [14,15].
    • We have an AWS for Oil & Gas initiative devoted to helping fossil fuel companies accelerate and expand oil and gas extraction [16,17]. To avert catastrophic warming, the science is clear: we must keep fossil fuels in the ground [18,19].
    • We donate to climate-delaying legislators: While Amazon has joined a variety of sustainability organizations like the Corporate Eco Forum and the American Council on Renewable Energy, we donated to 68 members of congress in 2018 who voted against climate legislation 100% of the time [20,21].
    • Our sustainability goals lack context. For example, we’ve set a goal of at least 50 solar installations in warehouse facilities by 2020. This represents only 6% of buildings in our global fulfillment network and a fraction of our overall carbon footprint [22].

Our customer obsession requires climate obsession. This necessitates an immediate company-wide plan addressing climate change that demonstrates the following principles:

    1. Public goals and timelines consistent with science and the IPCC report[23]. Emissions must be cut in half by 2030 from 2010 levels and reach zero by 2050. Goals must span all organizations and businesses, and cover the full supply chain.
    2. A complete transition away from fossil fuels rather than relying on carbon offsets.
    3. Prioritization of climate impact when making business decisions, including ending all custom solutions specifically designed for oil and gas extraction and exploration.
    4. Reduction of 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. We must prioritize our pollution reduction in these communities.
    5. Advocacy for local, federal, and international policies that reduce overall carbon emissions in line with the IPCC report and withholding of support from policy makers who delay action on climate change.
    6. Fair treatment of all employees during climate disruptions and extreme weather events. Unsafe or inaccessible workplaces should not be a reason to withhold pay, terminate, or otherwise penalize employees — including hourly and contract workers.

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. We have the power to shift entire industries, inspire global action on climate, and lead on the issue of our lifetimes. We ask that you, as leaders responsible for our strategic direction, adopt the climate plan resolution and release a company-wide plan that incorporates the six principles above.

Sincerely,

6,034* Amazon employees

Amazon has not commented officially on the letter, but spokesperson Sam Kennedy did release a statement to the press, including the New York Times. “Earlier this year, we announced that we will share our company-wide carbon footprint, along with related goals and programs. We also announced Shipment Zero, our vision to make all Amazon shipments net-zero carbon, with 50 percent of all shipments net zero by 2030.”  Too little, too late, the employees seem to suggest.

Biting The Hand That Feeds You

Many Amazon employees receive stock in the company as part of their compensation package. But that confers a power on them that employees at other companies do not enjoy. It allows them to propose corporate resolutions that must then be addressed at annual meetings. That is precisely what the activist employees have done. “It’s exactly what Amazon has taught me to be: bold, audacious, and tackle big problems,” says Maren Costa, a principal user-experience designer who has been with the company for almost 15 years.

The timing is interesting. Also last week, president Chump signed an executive order directing the Labor Department to investigate corporate resolutions filed by retirement funds who dare to make social activism part of their investment strategy. In the gospel according to America’s putative president, investment managers have one duty and one duty only — to make money for their clients. Perhaps a new executive order will follow soon prohibiting employees from gumming up the wheels of commerce with the kind of socialist crap the Amazon employees are promoting.

We here at CleanTechnica have also criticized Amazon for talking out of both sides of its mouth when it comes to reducing the carbon footprint of its delivery process. As the same time it is greenwashing itself with high minded programs like Shipment Zero, it has ordered 20,000 Sprinter vans from Mercedes Benz. Even thought the Sprinter is available in a battery electric  configuration, so far as we can determine the vans for Amazon will all be powered by diesel engines — a direct betrayal of that Shipment Zero pledge.

All those vans will constitute one of the largest delivery fleets in North America. With a normal useful life of 10-12 years, they will be spewing diesel particulates behind them every day for a decade or more. And when Amazon is done with them, they will get sold off to other countries to continue polluting the atmosphere somewhere else until their wheels fall off. Amazon had a chance to give clean transportation a major boost but abdicated its responsibility to the public it serves, which makes all its other promise ring hollow.

Shareholder initiatives have a spotty record of success but perhaps 6,034 signatures on a letter will start to influence those who guide the company to rethink their policies going forward. It is hard to completely ignore an initiative that has the support of 10% of your employees. 
 
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About the Author

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island and anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. His motto is, "Life is not measured by how many breaths we take but by the number of moments that take our breath away!" You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.



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