A group of Amazon employees pressuring the company to take meaningful action to slow climate change revealed plans Monday for a walkout Sept. 20 to support the student-led Global Climate Strike.
Shortly after the announcement Monday morning, some 941 employees — a fraction of the Seattle commerce giant’s 650,000-person global workforce — indicated plans to participate.
The walkout, the latest in a growing list of demonstrations by groups of tech company employees on issues ranging from immigration to facial recognition technology, coincides with the start of a global week of protest action. Building on the Fridays for Future student-led school strikes for climate, the upcoming protest actions come ahead of a Sept. 23 United Nations climate summit. At least 20 events are planned across Washington state.
Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, a group that put a climate proposal before shareholders this spring and amassed about 8,200 signatures on a letter urging company founder and CEO Jeff Bezos to take the lead on the global issue, released a video and blog post Monday outlining their intentions to take action later this month.
“As employees at one of the largest and most powerful companies in the world, our role in facing the climate crisis is to ensure our company is leading on climate, not following,” employees wrote in a blog post. “We have to take responsibility for the impact that our business has on the planet and on people.”
The employees outlined three specific actions they say would “demonstrate real climate leadership”:
Amazon should eliminate carbon emissions by 2030, and start by using electric vehicles first in communities that suffer most from pollution related to deliveries.
The company should eliminate custom technologies it offers oil and gas companies in its Amazon Web Services cloud computing business.
And, the company should discontinue funding for lobbying groups, such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and politicians who block climate action.
Amazon has said it would disclose its carbon emissions and plans to reduce them sometime this year, after what the company describes as years of work “to develop an advanced scientific model to carefully map our carbon footprint to provide our business teams with detailed information helping them identify ways to reduce carbon use in their businesses.”
Amazon argues that e-commerce “is inherently the most sustainable way to shop” and cloud computing is likewise for IT operations. The company has set a goal of powering all of its infrastructure using renewable energy, but set no target for when it would achieve that. In February, Amazon set its first emissions-reduction goal with a date attached: It pledged to reduce emissions from half of its deliveries to “net zero” by 2030.
However, that pledge raises many questions about how the company would achieve the reductions — the “net zero” language suggests the use of carbon offsets, such as tree-planting programs — and whether it intends to reduce absolute emissions. If the company only reduces emissions intensity per shipment, but shipment volume continues to grow substantially in the next decade, its total emissions could conceivably rise.
Amazon’s climate-focused employees say that’s not good enough. “We pride ourselves on being a leader,” they wrote in the blog post. “But in the face of the climate crisis, a true leader is one who reaches zero emissions first, not one who slides in at the last possible moment.”
They pointed to the speed with which Amazon has developed its own delivery network, and its willingness to invest in ever-faster delivery, as it did earlier this year with a move to one-day shipping for many Prime orders. A commitment to “zero-emissions logistics” by Amazon, the employees argue, “has the power to move industries.”
Asked to comment on the employee walkout, an Amazon spokesperson provided a statement reiterating past company efforts and the disclosure plans.