Amazon workers call on company leadership to tackle climate change threat
Amazon workers call on company leadership to tackle climate change threat

Amazon workers revolt over climate change

17 April 2019

Thousands of Amazon employees have signed an open letter calling on the company to take the lead on tackling climate change, adopt stricter sustainability goals and ensure that its supply chain follows suit.

More than 6,000 workers have signed the open letter, which was published on last week. It says that Amazon’s leadership is urgently needed in tackling the “existential threat” of climate change.

The letter calls for an “immediate company-wide plan addressing climate change” and for Amazon to commit to cutting emissions in half by 2030 (from 2010 levels) and to promise to reach zero emissions by 2050. These goals must span all organisations and businesses and cover the full supply chain, it demands.

While the company understands the importance of “thinking big, taking ownership of hard problems, and earning trust” it needs to expand this thinking to climate change, according to the letter.  “These traits have made Amazon a top global innovator but have been missing from the company’s approach to climate change,” it says.

Amazon, for example, had failed to disclose a company-wide plan to reach zero carbon emissions and its declared goal to reach 100% renewable energy did not have a date for completion, the letter states. And while it has pledged to achieve zero net carbon reductions in its shipments via its Shipment Zero policy by 2030, this will not necessarily lead to an overall decrease in the company’s emissions compared to current levels, it adds.

Amazon recently ordered 20,000 diesel vans whose emissions will need to be offset with carbon credits, which in turn could cause environmental impact of their own, such as leading to the displacement of indigenous communities in some circumstances, campaigners claim.

Some of the company’s sustainability goals are also criticised in the letter. For example, a goal to have at least 50 solar installations in warehouse facilities by 2020 represents only 6% of buildings in the company’s global fulfilment network and a fraction of its overall carbon footprint.

The letter also says that while Amazon has joined sustainability organisations, it has also made political donations to climate change nay-sayers. These included donations to 68 members of congress in 2018 who voted against climate legislation 100% of the time.

“Amazon has the resources and scale to spark the world’s imagination and redefine what is possible and necessary to address the climate crisis,” said the letter. “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.”

An Amazon spokesperson told SM: “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% of all shipments net zero by 2030.”

They said that the company is “using a science-based approach to develop data and strategies to ensure a rigorous approach to our sustainability work,” and its “dedication to ensuring that our customers understand how we are addressing environmental issues has been unwavering.”

Amazon has a “long history of commitment to sustainability through innovative programs” they said.

“In operations alone, we have over 200 scientists, engineers, and product designers dedicated exclusively to inventing new ways to leverage our scale for the good of customers and the planet.”

The spokesperson added: “We have a long-term commitment to powering our global infrastructure using 100% renewable energy.”

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