Since Tuesday, over 5,000 Amazon employees have signed a letter urging Jeff Bezos to create a comprehensive climate change plan for the company. Published online and addressed to the CEO and Amazon’s board of directors, it called for a company-wide plan backed by six principles; including “a complete transition away from fossil fuels rather than relying on carbon offsets” and “prioritization of climate impact when making business decisions.”
- Is the collective power of employees the next phase of tech worker activism?
- How can Amazon meet employee demands on clean energy and continue to meet its revenue and profit goals?
- Can we expect similar efforts by employees of other tech companies on this issue soon? If so, what is the best plan for employees to raise their voices on issues like this?
- The employees’ letter, published Wednesday on the blogging platform Medium, calls for Amazon to publicly detail how it plans to handle disruption brought on by climate change and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.
- The letter is critical of Amazon’s current climate impact, noting that the company lacks a plan to reach zero carbon emissions, works with oil and gas companies, and donates to politicians who deny climate change. It also called on the company to stop offering custom cloud-computing services that support the oil and gas industry in extracting more fossil fuels.
- The action is the largest employee-driven movement on climate change to take place in the influential tech industry.
Wednesday’s letter is the latest example of tech industry employees going public to pressure leadership into action. “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 letter reads. “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.”
The letter supports a new tactic among activist tech workers: using the stock they receive as compensation to agitate for change. Like other shareholders, they can file a resolution urging a particular corporate change that investors vote on at a company’s annual meeting. Historically, this approach has been used by outside activist investors, not employees.
The Amazon employees who signed the letter and made their names public, are pushing Amazon to approve a shareholder resolution that would force the company to develop a plan to address its carbon footprint. The group, called Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, formed in December after 28 current and former Amazon employee shareholders co-filed a formal shareholder resolution requiring Amazon to create a plan to convert to green power sources. The resolution is expected to come up for a vote next month.
It is rare for tech employees, even the most activist ones, to attach their names to public criticism of their employers. While thousands walked out at Google over the company’s handling of sexual harassment claims, for example, few names were connected to the effort.
“Amazon’s sustainability team is using a science-based approach to develop data and strategies to ensure a rigorous approach to our sustainability work,” the company said in a statement. “We have launched several major and impactful programs and are working hard to integrate this approach fully across Amazon.”
On Monday, Amazon announced a renewable energy initiative to build three new wind farms. The company’s last renewable energy project was two years ago.