Jan 3, 2020 - Technology

Amazon and Big Tech can't escape climate pressure

An illustration of a box labeled fragile in front of a red background.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

2020's first battle between Big Tech and climate activists is already here, and it won't be the last.

Driving the news: Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ) yesterday alleged management is trying to prevent employees from continuing to publicly criticize corporate policies.

  • The group says two employees were threatened with termination and "a total of four were told in meetings that they were in violation of the company’s policies on workers speaking to the press and on social media," Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: This is more than an HR dispute. It shows how advocates are increasingly targeting tech giants to act more aggressively — even as Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others have made various commitments and stepped up renewables purchases.

What's next: AECJ's announcement of the allegations shows that more battles await. It looks critically at pledges Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled in September.

  • While AECJ called them a victory, they want the company's 2040 pledge of net-zero emissions sped up to 2030.
  • They also criticize Amazon Web Services' work with oil companies.

The big picture: Activists are focusing on tech giants for several reasons.

  • Data centers consume immense amounts of electricity.
  • Amazon uses fossil fuels to deliver billions of packages.
  • Companies including Microsoft and Amazon have cloud computing and other business lines tailored to oil-and-gas sector clients.

Why you'll hear about this again: The political environment is ripe. White House hopeful Bernie Sanders has criticized tech companies over their work with the oil sector.

  • And there's a lot of attention right now on corporate policies as the Trump administration has scaled back federal emissions rules.

The other side: An Amazon spokesperson told Axios and other outlets, "Our policy regarding external communications is not new and we believe is similar to other large companies."

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