Hundreds of Amazon employees criticize firm’s climate stance

Group members have publicly criticized the company, and some have been warned that they could be fired. (File/AFP)
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Updated 27 January 2020

Hundreds of Amazon employees criticize firm’s climate stance

  • More than 300 signed a Medium blog post by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ)
  • Group members have publicly criticized the company, and some have been warned that they could be fired

SAN FRANCISCO: Hundreds of Amazon employees Sunday openly criticized the online retail giant’s environmental record, in violation of the company’s communications policy.

More than 300 signed a Medium blog post by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ), which is pushing the company to go further in its climate change mitigation plan which was announced with great publicity in September.

Group members have publicly criticized the company, and some have been warned that they could be fired.

“The protest is the largest action by employees since Amazon began threatening to fire workers for speaking out about Amazon’s role in the climate crisis,” the AECJ said.

“As Amazon workers, we are responsible for not only the success of the company, but its impact as well. It’s our moral responsibility to speak up, and the changes to the communications policy are censoring us from exercising that responsibility,” said Sarah Tracy, a software development engineer at Amazon.

It is common for companies to demand restraint from employees when it comes to publicly discussing the firm’s activities and even more so when openly questioning them.

Amazon had nearly 650,000 permanent employees at the end of 2018, according to the company’s annual report.

While the environment and climate change was the focus of many of the posts on Sunday, Amazon was also criticized for other activities such as providing artificial intelligence capabilities to companies in the oil sector.

Amazon is often criticized over its carbon footprint because of the high energy consumption of its huge server farms for its lucrative cloud computing activities.

And it has built its success on the back of a huge road transport logistics network to ensure speedy deliveries, which generates a lot of greenhouse gases, the main culprit of climate change.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on September 19 last year made public environmental commitments, promising in particular that the firm would be carbon neutral by 2040.

The AECJ said this was insufficient and Amazon should be aiming for a 2030 target.

“This is not the time for silencing voices. We need policies that welcome more open discourse, more problem-solving, and more urgent and concerted action about climate change and its causes,” said Mark Hiew, a senior marketing manager at Amazon.

Amazon did not respond to an AFP request for a response but an article in the Bezos-owned Washington Post quoted spokesman Drew Herdener as saying Amazon encouraged employees to express themselves, but internally through the various platforms available to them.


China revokes three Wall Street Journal press cards over ‘Sick Man’ headline

Updated 19 February 2020

China revokes three Wall Street Journal press cards over ‘Sick Man’ headline

  • Wall Street Journal op-ed had a ‘racially discriminatory’ and ‘sensational’ headline

China said Wednesday it has revoked the press credentials of three Wall Street Journal reporters over an editorial headline it deemed racist, with the newspaper adding they had been ordered to leave in five days.
The expulsion, one of its harshest moves against foreign media in recent years, came as Beijing also slammed Washington’s decision to tighten rules on Chinese state media organizations in the US, calling the move “unreasonable and unacceptable.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the Journal editorial — which was titled “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia” — had a “racially discriminatory” and “sensational” headline, and slammed the newspaper for not issuing an official apology.
“As such, China has decided that from today, the press cards of three Wall Street Journal reporters in Beijing will be revoked,” Geng told a press briefing.
The Journal reported that deputy bureau chief Josh Chin and reporter Chao Deng, both US nationals, as well as reporter Philip Wen, an Australian, had been ordered to leave the country in five days.
The editorial, written by Bard College professor Walter Russell Mead, also criticized the Chinese government’s initial response to the new coronavirus outbreak — calling the Wuhan city government at the virus epicenter “secretive and self-serving,” while dismissing national efforts as ineffective.
The February 3 piece “slandered the efforts of the Chinese government and the Chinese people to fight the epidemic,” said Geng.
The new coronavirus epidemic has killed over 2,000 people in China and infected more than 74,000, and has spread to at least two dozen countries around the world.