Over 1,000 Amazon employees are planning to walk out of work this week on Friday the 20th of September, in support of youths calling for a Global Climate Strike. This will be the first time in Amazon’s history that workers at Amazon’s head office in Seattle and at offices around the world have gone on strike and also the first walkout in the tech industry over climate change.
The walkout at Amazon is being organized by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, which has pushed the company over the past year to take action to address the climate crisis.
“Young people all around the world have been striking from school to call attention to the climate crisis. We’re answering their call to walk out because our role, as employees of one of the largest companies in the world, means we need to push for a climate plan that gets us to zero emissions company-wide by 2030”
– Bobby Gordon, a Finance Manager at Amazon in Seattle
There are so many nuances to Amazon employees joining the proposed Global Climate Strike that it’s difficult to know where to start, not least of which because joining a Global Climate Strike to call on your employer to operate in more environmentally friendly manner does call into question if you should be working for them in the first place if you’re so unhappy with the company ethos.
Amazon Employees for Climate Justice Global Climate Strike Aims
- Commit to zero emissions by 2030 and pilot electric vehicles first in communities most-impacted by pollution.
- Zero contracts with fossil fuel companies that use Amazon’s AI technology to help them accelerate oil and gas extraction.
- Zero funding for climate denying lobbyists and politicians.
Taking these one by one, zero emissions is an unattainable goal. Certainly many companies are experimenting with electric vehicles but the range is at best limited and electric vehicles may have zero emissions locally where they operate but they are by no means environmentally friendly. The impact on the environment to manufacture them is immense and the electricity to charge them has to come from somewhere – currently there isn’t anywhere close to the capacity for solar or wind generation to keep pace.
Ultimately it has to be accepted that there is no such thing as zero emissions – if you’re going to be moving millions of products around the country and around the world then energy is being used up and inevitably at some point along the way there will be emissions. Minimising these emissions is a noble aim, but any company who claims zero emissions is in reality hiding the emissions with their suppliers or claiming to be zero carbon by buying offsets.
Zero contracts with fossil fuel companies
Zero contracts with fossil fuel companies is a dangerous territory to get into. When you start picking and choosing your customers based on their field of operation where do you stop? Sooner or later someone will demand that Amazon cease contracts because the customer hosts content they’re morally opposed to or on the grounds of religion. The demand might have the moral high ground but the longer term implications of picking and choose customers based on a judgement about their businesses can’t be ignored.
Zero funding for climate denying lobbyists and politicians
Calling for zero funding for climate denying lobbyists and politicians is another interesting area, what if one of these politicians is also working on legislation for a cause which is for the undeniably good of mankind in another area? Lobbying is something that is a fact of politics – especially in the US – and this again is a demand for which practical adoption appears difficult.
Ultimately the employees make a very apt point that as a leader in technology Amazon should also be a leader in operating in an environmentally friendly manner. Amazon are one of the largest companies in the world and by virtue of delivering goods an environmentally unfriendly company but aiming to do this with the minimum possible environmental impact is something that as a leader in ecommerce it seems incumbent on Amazon to aim for. Over 1,000 of their employees certainly think so.
“I’m proud that Amazon is one of the most innovative companies, and that means we can be a leader on climate. As a leader, we need to reach zero first and not be a company who slides in at the last possible deadline.”
– Roshni Naidu, Senior Technical Product Manager at Amazon in Seattle