Jan 26, 2020 - Technology

Hundreds at Amazon call for company to toughen climate policies

 Illustration of a package with an earth logo on it and the words "fragile, handle with care"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Hundreds of Amazon workers are pushing the company to adopt tougher policies to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change.

Why it matters: The employees are putting their names to their comments, posted on Medium, and the move defies Amazon's corporate policy.

The big picture: Employee activism at tech companies is on the rise, both at companies known for openness, like Google, as well as at companies that don't have a long tradition of worker action, like Amazon.

  • Many of the workers are calling on Amazon’s AWS unit to stop doing business with oil and gas companies. Increasingly those concerned with climate change have been pressuring not only oil and gas companies but those companies’ partners and suppliers.
  • Microsoft, for example, was praised for its announcement earlier this month that it was working to become carbon negative, but critics pointed out that its Azure Web Services unit was still doing business with oil and gas companies.

What they're saying:

  • Michael Sokolov, Amazon principal engineer: "Expecting its employees to maintain silence on these issues, and Amazon’s impact on them, is really a reprehensible overreach, and I am proud to take this opportunity to demonstrate my unwillingness to comply."
  • Amelia Graham-McCann, Amazon senior business analyst: “The science on climate change is clear. It is unconscionable for Amazon to continue helping the oil and gas industry extract fossil fuels while trying to silence employees who speak out.”
  • Jacob Hinton, Amazon software engineer: "Contributing to climate change, supporting ICE, and brutal labor conditions in the warehouses are great for the bottom line but awful for society."

Amazon's response, from a company spokesperson: "We founded the Climate Pledge, committing to net zero carbon by 2040, which is 10 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."

What's next: Amazon says, "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.”

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