Amazon Defending the Amazon: Employees stage walkout as part of The Climate Strike

October 3, 2019

3 min read

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What's going on here?

On Friday 20th September, thousands of Amazon employees (collectively “Amazon Employees for Climate Justice”) walked out of the company headquarters in Seattle. Other Amazon employees from offices in over 25 cities and 14 different countries also took part in the strike.

What does this mean?

The walkout formed part of a global climate strike alongside students, youth groups, labour and humanitarian organisations and company employee collectives, timed ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit held on the week beginning 23rd September.

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice stated 3 specific demands:

  1. Zero emissions by 2030: Pilot electric vehicles first in communities most impacted by our pollution.
  2. Zero custom Amazon Web Services (AWS) contracts for fossil fuel companies to accelerate oil and gas extraction.
  3. Zero funding for climate denying lobbyists and politicians.  

The group admitted that reaching zero emissions by 2030 wouldn’t be easy as it takes time for technology to develop, but stated that a company with the innovation, boldness and resources of Amazon should be at the forefront of driving the transformation of the economy that the climate crisis requires. The group stated that “Amazon is one of the world’s most innovative companies. We pride ourselves on being a leader. But in the face of the climate crisis, a true leader is the one who reaches zero emissions first, not one who slides in at the last possible moment”.

The walkout action followed the announcement of “Shipment Zero” in February 2019, a project through which Amazon declared the “ambitious goal” of becoming carbon neutral on 50% of all Amazon shipments by 2030.

What's the big picture effect?

Under a new Climate Pledge, announced the day before the walkout, Amazon committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, a decade earlier than called for under the United Nations Paris Agreement.

As part of the new initiative, Amazon will be using 100% renewable energy company wide by 2030, a goal Amazon Employees for Climate Justice have been seeking. Amazon will also be ordering 100,000 electric-powered delivery trucks from automaker Rivian.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, said Amazon is “done being in the middle of the herd on this issue – we’ve decided to use our size and scale to make a difference”. He further added that Amazon is pushing for other companies to join the pledge.

Amazon is also launching the Right Now Climate Fund in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, committing $100 million to restore and protect forests, wetlands and peatlands around the world. Sally Jewell, interim CEO at The Nature Conservancy praised Amazon’s efforts, stating, “We applaud Amazon’s Climate Pledge and their aggressive ambition to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040”.

Employees from other technology giants also joined the walkout in Seattle. A Google employee and action organiser said, “climate change is and must be a work-appropriate conversation… We are a community united across tech, across countries. We are not Google. We are not Amazon or Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Twitter. We are human beings and we need each other right now”.

This may be the start of a fundamental shift in the attitude of employees at large corporations like Amazon as we all join forces to combat climate change, but it remains to be seen whether the essential changes will be made at the top.

Report written by Erin Stockdale

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