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Magazine | World

Amazon Threatens to Fire Employees That Speak Out Against Its Environmental Practices

We’re getting closer and closer to the deadlines set by scientists for making the changes necessary to keep our planet alive. I see people trying to make changes every day. Some people choose to make small changes, and some make huge ones, but for the most part, I do see an effort from the general population to be more conscious of the choices we make. However, the big culprits of climate change are just moving forward, acting like nothing is wrong. Those culprits are the multi-billion dollar companies that control our economy and society. Amazon is one of those companies, and if that wasn’t bad enough, the company led by the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, has threatened to fire any employees that speak out about climate change or against Amazon’s business practices. 

Back in April of 2019, almost 9,000 Amazon employees signed an open letter to Amazon imploring for the company to stop business practices that were hurting the Earth. They demanded a cease to business dealing with fossil fuel companies, prioritization of the climate in business decisions, advocacy for government policies that reduce overall carbon emissions, and public goals to be announced inline with the timelines set forth by science. However, this was largely ignored by the company. 

I’m sure many of you remember the global climate strike that took place in September of 2019. Many Amazon employees announced their plan to participate in the strike, as Amazon employees, not just citizens of the Earth. It was then that Amazon conveniently announced an updated communications policy and the company’s climate pledge. Amazon promised to reach 100% net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, run on 80% renewable energy by 2024, and have 50% of shipments be net-zero carbon by 2030. I won’t go into too much detail about why these are all empty promises because I actually wrote an entire post on Peaceful Dumpling debunking this pledge. Essentially, many of these changes are bandaids on the company’s actions that should just be stopped altogether. And many of the more significant issues such as fossil fuel use and the financial support for politicians that actively speak out against the existence of climate change were not mentioned.

The updated communications policy required employees to seek approval from Amazon, often a vice president, before talking publicly while being identified as an employee. Under this policy, no employee would be able to discuss the business practices that are so detrimental to the environment, and we would all be in the dark about what this multi-billion dollar company is doing to damage our planet further. If we’re being realistic, who would approve an employee condemning the actions of the company? Amazon’s spokeswoman, Jaci Anderson, said in a statement to The Washington Post—which is owned by Bezos—that employees are “encouraged to work within their teams,” by “suggesting improvements to how we operate through those internal channels.” How many of us work for big corporations that ignore employee suggestions because, at the end of the day, it would hurt the company’s net income? If I asked that question in a room full of people, I can guarantee the majority would raise their hands. In fact, we’ve even seen that Amazon ignores their employees’ suggestions with the company’s response to the open letter mentioned earlier. 

That policy was released right after 1,500 employees announced their intent to participate in the climate strike. However, this updated policy and the severely lacking climate pledge seemed to stir up even more passions among the workers because thousands of Amazon employees went on strike. The workers’ involvement in speaking out didn’t stop there. Since September, the ‘Amazon Employees for Climate Justice’ have continued speaking out on social media. Since then, several employees, that are members of the climate justice,  were contacted by Amazon’s HR and legal team. These workers were threatened with termination if they continued to speak out about climate change and Amazon’s business practices. Maren Costa, an Amazon employee, who spoke out on social media calling Amazon to do more to tackle climate change, had an investigation launched around her by HR. After several meetings and threatening emails, Costa was ultimately allowed to stay with Amazon. Maren Costa said the experience was “scary […], and then to be given a follow-up email saying that if I continued to speak up, I could be fired, but I spoke up because I’m terrified by the harm the climate crisis is already causing, and I fear for my children’s future.”

It is already a gross injustice that the employees who are trying to push the company to a more sustainable practice are being threatened with the loss of their jobs, but there is a bigger picture to all of this. These giga-companies are silencing their employees because they don’t want the public to know the truth. The richest man in the world is afraid of losing money because people like you and me decide they don’t want to support a company that is actively damaging the planet and not making the changes necessary to minimize it. With the most damage done by industry giants, we need to know these business practices so as consumers we can make decisions to either shop less, or if we can, not shop at all with the companies that refuse to acknowledge the cry for help from our planet.

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Photo by Li-An Lim via Unsplash

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