Given the latest developments, it’s starting to seem ironic that giant tech company Amazon was named after a rainforest. Owned by the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, Amazon has a disappointing track record when it comes to environmental issues. After being bashed on this trending topic by its own employees, the trillion-dollar company has reportedly threatened the job security of those who spoke out against the company’s poor sustainability record.
Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ) has revealed that several of their members have received emails from lawyers and HR representatives regarding public statements they made about Amazon’s environmental stance.
Two vocal Amazon employees who gave comments to the press were even threatened with “termination” of their employment if they continued to speak out because they were violating the company’s rules on external communications.
Bobby Gordon, a finance manager at Amazon, said that climate change is affecting everyone and that they “cannot confront this monumental problem, let alone avert catastrophic damage to our planet and society if we are not allowed to speak up about it.”
AECJ even called out Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos on Twitter. The group asked whether Bezos will use his economic power for climate leadership or not. The post also asked Amazon to “stop silencing employees who are sounding the alarm.”
In 2019, the world’s biggest online marketplace shipped 3.5 billion items via its own delivery network, but the convenience of prompt door-to-door delivery comes at a cost. Amazon produced about 44.4 million tonnes (48.9 million US tons) of carbon dioxide in 2018.
In light of this, AECJ members are pushing their employer to be a “bold leader in the fight against climate change.” This is the same group that arranged for Amazon workers to be involved in the biggest global climate strike in September of 2019. The group also sent a public letter directed to Jeff Bezos and the company’s Board of Directors, encouraging them to “adopt the climate plan shareholder resolution and release a company-wide climate plan.”
The conflict between Amazon and the AECJ originated from public statements given by two Amazon employees to The Washington Post in October of 2019. The daily newspaper is also owned by Bezos. They criticized the company by saying, “Amazon’s position is based on false premises and distracts from the fact that Amazon wants to profit in businesses that are directly contributing to climate catastrophe.”
Amazon responded to the two outspoken workers via an email sent by the company’s HR lawyer. The email became a subject of controversy because of its threatening tone and suggestion that the employees might face termination for speaking out on climate change.
According to Amazon, the email is an HR issue. They say the reaction against members of the AECJ stemmed from their violation of the company’s deep-rooted external communications protocols, which they say are standard in the business and “similar to other large companies.”
An Amazon spokesperson said in a BBC interview that they modernized their policy to make it easier for their employees to cooperate in external activities that include speeches and media interviews. “As with any company policy, employees may receive a notification from our HR team if we learn of an instance where a policy is not being followed.”