Amazon Workers Defied Policy to Speak Out About Climate Crisis

Hundreds of Amazon employees defied policy to condemn the company for failing to take enough action on the climate crisis.

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice

Hundreds of Amazon workers violated the company's communication policy to call out the company on its climate practices.

In a Medium post published on Sunday, the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice shared more than 350 critical comments about the company. Some of those employees also expressed their reasoning for speaking publicly in a video under hashtag #AMZNSpeakOut.

In a statement on Twitter, the group said the quotes were meant to protest the company’s external communications policy that requires employees to seek approval from management before speaking publicly about the business.

The Washington Post reported earlier this month that two workers who stated concern about Amazon’s environmental practices to the paper last fall were reprimanded internally. One of two workers who spoke to the Post, which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, said she received an email warning of “formal corrective action, up to and including termination of employment with Amazon.”

In a statement to NowThis, an Amazon spokesperson said the company is passionate about environmental issues, pointing to its Positions page.

“Take climate change as one example -- we founded the Climate Pledge, committing to net zero carbon by 2040, which is ten years ahead of the Paris Agreement. We plan to be using 100% renewable energy by 2030, and we have thousands of people working on sustainability initiatives across the company,” the spokesperson said in an email. “While all employees are welcome to engage constructively with any of the many teams inside Amazon that work on sustainability and other topics, we do enforce our external communications policy and will not allow employees to publicly disparage or misrepresent the company or the hard work of their colleagues who are developing solutions to these hard problems.”

On the Medium post, many comments criticized the company’s contracts with oil and gas companies and its role in developing surveillance technology. Some statements simply encouraged Amazon to “do better.” Other comments criticized the company’s controversial treatment of warehouse workers, and data linguist Hilda Marshall wrote “no more collaborating with ICE,” which has previously been reported on.

In 2018, Amazon self-reported its annual carbon footprint at 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s equal to the consumption of nearly 5 billion gallons of gasoline, according to an EPA calculator, and would require 58 million acres of forest a whole year to sequester.

In September 2019, the company co-founded the Climate Pledge, committing to meet the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement 10 years early. This includes achieving net zero emissions by 2040 and reaching 100% renewable energy by 2030.

Some climate activists at Amazon have considered the pledge a win, but some employees think the company can set more impactful goals

“AWS Oil and Gas contracts jeopardize the objective of Amazon’s own Climate Pledge, which requires companies to commit to reaching Paris Agreement goals 10 years early,” data engineer Justin Campbell wrote on Medium. “The Paris Agreement established a global carbon budget that allows for burning less than one fifth of current oil and gas reserves. If AWS continues to help fossil fuel companies, like BP and Shell, discover and extract fossil fuel, it will guarantee we will NEVER meet the Paris Agreement, let alone ahead of schedule.”

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders tweeted in support of the Amazon employees on Monday.