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Amazon Employees Are Walking Out Over the Company's Huge Carbon Footprint

Nearly 1,000 employees have pledged to walk out September 20 to demand the company go to zero emissions by 2030.

by Lauren Kaori Gurley
Sep 9 2019, 1:26pm

Image: Paul Hennesy via Getty Images

With less than two weeks until the global climate strikes, 930 tech and corporate Amazon employees have pledged to walk out of the company’s offices on September 20, demanding zero emissions by 2030.

The climate action, which follows strikes at Amazon warehouses, most recently on Amazon Prime Day, marks the first time white collar Amazon employees have staged a walkout.

Workers with the group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice are demanding that the company adopt a resolution to eliminate its massive carbon footprint by 2030. Compared to other tech giants, Amazon, which ships billions of packages each year and controls a huge portion of the cloud computing market, has come under particular scrutiny for its carbon emissions.

“For us, it’s really important that Amazon can commit to being a leader against the climate crisis,” said Sarah Read, 28, a user experience researcher for Prime Video, who will participate in the walkout in Seattle. “It’s important to us that Amazon commit to zero emissions by 2030, to no custom contracts that help fossil fuel companies, to no donations to climate-change denying lobbyists and politicians. It’s important to hold Amazon to really high standards.”

On September 20, the biggest day of the weeklong climate strike taking place in 117 countries, Amazon employees in Seattle will walk out of their offices at 11:30 a.m., gather at the giant glass spheres at the center of Amazon’s corporate campus, then march to city hall to rally with youth climate activists. “When the youth called for adults to walk out with them, I felt it was important for me to join,” Read said. An internal call for action that began circulating among employees on September 4 received around 930 pledges as of September 8, Read said.

“Playing a significant role in helping to reduce the sources of human-induced climate change is an important commitment for Amazon," an Amazon spokesperson told Motherboard in response to news of the walkout. "We have dedicated sustainability teams who have been working for years on initiatives to reduce our environmental impact. Earlier this year, we announced Shipment Zero - Amazon’s vision to make all Amazon shipments net zero carbon, with 50% of all shipments net zero by 2030."

"Over the past decade through our sustainable packaging programs, we’ve eliminated more than 244,000 tons of packaging materials and avoided 500 million shipping boxes," the Amazon spokesperson continued. "To track our progress on this journey and as part of an overall commitment to sharing our sustainability goals, we plan to share Amazon’s company-wide carbon footprint, along with related goals and programs, later this year. This follows an extensive project over the past few years 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.”

The news was first published by Wired but was independently confirmed by Motherboard.

Microsoft workers in Seattle will participate in the walkout. Organizers say Google workers could also join.


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The group leading the walkout, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, formed last December when 28 employees filed a shareholder resolution, a common tactic in tech labor organizing, that called on Amazon to adopt a company-wide climate plan. Since then, the group has been at the forefront of the growing movement of tech workers demanding companies including Amazon, Google, and Microsoft take action on a range of issues, including carbon emissions, military and law enforcement contracts, and sexual harassment.

In February, the email list for Amazon Employees for Climate Justice grew from 600 to 1,200 in about 24 hours. Days later, the company announced “Shipping Zero,” a plan to eliminate half of Amazon’s shipping emissions by 2030. Yet, some vocal employees say that “Shipping Zero” does not go far enough, pointing out that an increase in emissions would still be possible.

In April, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice published an open letter, signed by 8,215 of the company’s 65,000 corporate and tech employees in the United States, criticizing the shipping giant for helping “fossil fuel companies accelerate and expand oil and gas extraction” while touting its own efforts to reduce emissions. The letter asked Bezos and the company’s board to adopt a climate shareholder resolution for zero emissions by 2030.

The following month, dozens of employees stood up at the company’s annual meeting demanding to meet with Bezos, who dodged their questions, refusing to come out from backstage. Thirty-one percent of the shareholders who voted endorsed the climate resolution, which the organizers considered a major feat.

Correction: This story previously said that dozens of Amazon employees got on stage at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in support of a resolution for Amazon to reach zero emissions by 2030. The employees were at the meeting but did not get on stage. Motherboard regrets the error.

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GLOBAL WARMING
climate change