While pledging aggressive action to reduce a carbon footprint that approaches that of Denmark, Amazon is policing climate activists on its payroll, recently threatening to dismiss several employees who’ve publicly called on the sprawling tech giant to do more, including severing its ties with Big Oil.
Amazon’s response comes a few short months after belatedly announcing a “climate pledge” that commits it to run entirely on renewable energy by 2030, and hit carbon neutrality by 2040, The Guardian reports. A critical lynchpin for this rapid acceleration into the carbon-free economy will be its recent order for 100,000 fully electric delivery vehicles.
Amazon’s pledge is a victory for Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, a group that previously tried, and failed, to gain sufficient shareholder support for a climate plan. But The Guardian says their success has come at a cost, with several members of the group being investigated by Amazon human resource and legal personnel for making unauthorized comments to media about the need for the company to expand its response to the climate crisis.
Some employees also received follow-up emails threatening “formal corrective action”, up to and including dismissal, “should they ever again speak publicly about climate change without authorization.”
Employee Maren Costa, a user experience principal designer for Amazon, said the discipline and threats from her employer were “scary,” but that she spoke up because she is “terrified by the harm the climate crisis is already causing,” and fears for the future of her children. “Any policy that says I can’t talk about something that is a threat to my children—all children—is a problem for me,” she said.
Software engineer and fellow activist Victoria Liang said the updated communications policy “is having a chilling effect on workers who have the backbone to speak out and challenge Amazon to do better.” She added that the new rules have “nothing to do with protecting confidential data,” but are rather “aimed at silencing discussion around publicly available information.”
Amazon insisted it “started updating its external communications policy for staff in spring last year,” and that the process “was not aimed at any particular group of employees,” The Guardian says. Workers countered that the company “updated its policy on staff speaking to the press and on social media in early September,” the day after some 1,500 employees announced plans to participate in the global climate strike.
“A further 8,000 Amazon employees subsequently signed an open letter to [CEO Jeff] Bezos calling for concrete climate goals; to cancel contracts with oil and gas companies; and to stop donations to politicians who deny the reality of the climate crisis,” The Guardian notes.
While Bezos has “promised to review Amazon’s political donations,” he has thus far rejected “calls to sever ties with oil and gas companies,” the paper says.