Amazon Is Making Big Climate-Change Promises; Some Employees Want More, Faster

By Daily Editorials

January 30, 2020 4 min read

Credit Amazon with at least talking the talk. The retail giant claims to be passionate about fighting climate change and has publicly laid out goals including using 100% renewable energy by 2030 and becoming carbon neutral by 2040. Amazon appears to be serious about its commitment to reduce its carbon footprint.

On the other hand, its carbon footprint is among the biggest on Earth. Shipping roughly 2.5 billion packages annually in the U.S. alone — in addition to using the services of other shipping behemoths like FedEx and UPS — means Amazon is responsible for more daily truck and plane traffic than your average big city.

Some Amazon employees say there are other climate-change concerns as well, including its work with the fossil fuel industry. In essence, they're saying Amazon doesn't walk the walk. If Amazon is interested in proving otherwise, it could start by resisting the urge to engage in what those workers say is a threat to their jobs for speaking out.

It's tempting to wonder why Amazon of all companies should be a target for climate activists, with so many other carbon-intense companies and industries actively trying to get out of doing their part to fight climate change — and, in the case of fossil fuel titans like Exxon, flooding the debate with disinformation to prevent tighter regulations. Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, in contrast, has pledged that Amazon will meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement 10 years ahead of schedule. Last year, the company said it would order 100,000 electric delivery trucks.

But it isn't all altruism. Bezos' announcements of those and other efforts last year appeared designed to head off a walkout by more than 1,500 Amazon employees who were — and still are — demanding more. The activist-employees want the company to be emission-free by 2030, to stop offering customized cloud-computing services that the oil and gas industries use to extract more fossil fuels, and to stop donating to politicians who deny climate change.

Two Amazon workers who'd been especially vocal in calling for more action from the company recently received warnings that they were violating company communications policy by publicly complaining that Amazon's climate-change efforts aren't enough and that continuing their outcry could cost them their jobs. The threat, in turn, sparked a rebellion by several hundred other Amazon workers Sunday on social media, pressing their climate-change demands and daring the company to fire them for violating its communications policy.

Bezos should respond by continuing to address the climate-change issue head-on instead of threatening a corporate gag order. Maybe it's not entirely fair that a company laying out concrete plans to combat climate change is getting more internal pressure to change than other companies that do nothing. But when you talk the talk, people start expecting the walk.

REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

Photo credit: Valiphotos at Pixabay

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