When it comes to concerns regarding the environment, Amazon doesn’t have the best track record even though it is a company named after a rainforest. After being criticized by its workers on this crucial issue, the trillion-dollar e-commerce giant has threatened a few employees who publically spoke out as opposed to the company’s sustainability record.
Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ) report that several members of theirs have been sent emails from lawyers and HR representatives regarding public statements they have made about Amazon’s environmental stance.
Two outspoken employees who made comments to the media were even threatened with “termination” of their jobs if they continued to speak out since they were breaking Amazon’s rules on external communications.
“The climate crisis is already affecting all of us,” Bobby Gordon, a finance manager at Amazon, said in a press statement. “We 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.”
How will the world remember Jeff Bezos in the era of climate emergency? Will he use his immense economic power to help, or not?Please tell @Amazon and @JeffBezos: Our world is on fire & desperately needs climate leadership. Stop silencing employees who are sounding the alarm. 2/
— Amazon Employees For Climate Justice (@AMZNforClimate) January 2, 2020
3.5 billion items have been shipped by Amazon through its delivery network in 2019 and billions more using other delivery companies. However, this benefit of rapid door-to-door delivery at the click of a mouse comes at a cost. The company’s work pumped out around 44.4 million tonnes (48.9 million US tons) of carbon dioxide in 2018 – that’s about the same as a small country.
AECJ, a grassroots collective of workers that want to force their employer to become a “bold leader in the fight against climate change”, is the same group that helped organize Amazon worker participation in the largest ever global climate strike in September 2019. They have also written a public letter addressed to Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s Board of Directors, urging them to “adopt the climate plan shareholder resolution and release a company-wide climate plan.”
Much of this current criticism between Amazon and the AECJ have resulted from statements given by two Amazon employees to The Washington Post – which, ironically, is owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos – in October 2019. In the article, they were quoted 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.”
Here's the full text of an email sent by an Amazon HR lawyer threatening an employee with termination after speaking out on climate issues. This all stemmed from a WaPo report in which the worker was quoted. WaPo reported on the threats earlier today. pic.twitter.com/4nVcCgdEiZ
— Dave Jamieson (@jamieson) January 2, 2020
As reported by Amazon, these comments are an HR issue. They say the action against AECJ members was taken because what they did disregarded the company’s well established external communications policies, which they claim are standard in the industry.
“Our policy regarding external communications is not new and we believe is similar to other large companies,” said an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider.
“We recently updated the policy and related approval process to make it easier for employees to participate in external activities such as speeches, media interviews, and use of the company’s logo,” a spokesperson told BBC News. “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.”