Thousands of Amazon employees urge company to do more on climate change

Thousands of Amazon employees signed an open letter that was released on Wednesday calling on the tech giant to do more on climate change. 

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 5,000 Amazon employees had signed onto the letter using their full names, a rare move for tech worker activists. 

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The employees are calling for Amazon to transition away from fossil fuels as a company, to advocate for policies that reduce carbon emissions, and to prioritize "climate impact" when making business decisions. 

"Amazon has the resources and scale to spark the world’s imagination and redefine what is possible and necessary to address the climate crisis," the employees wrote in the open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Amazon's board of directors. "We believe this is a historic opportunity for Amazon to stand with employees and signal to the world that we’re ready to be a climate leader." 

An Amazon spokesperson touted the company's existing efforts on climate change, including "Shipment Zero" and its commitment earlier this year to share Amazon's companywide carbon footprint.

"We have launched several major and impactful programs and are working hard to integrate this approach fully across Amazon," the spokesperson said in a statement. "Our dedication to ensuring that our customers understand how we are addressing environmental issues has been unwavering – we look forward to launching more work and sharing more this year." 

The New York Times first reported on the letter. 

Tech workers in Silicon Valley have increasingly launched public campaigns to pressure their employers on issues like workplace sexual harassment and benefits for contract employees. 

Amazon workers in particular have signed onto letters asking Bezos to stop selling Amazon's controversial facial recognition software Rekognition to law enforcement agencies, and have asked Amazon Web Services to stop hosting the software firm Palantir, which helps agents track immigrants.

The push by Amazon employees on Wednesday is the largest climate-focused campaign launched by tech workers so far.

Amazon has committed to reach 100 percent renewable energy, but it has not provided a deadline by which it intends to do so. The employees in the letter are asking Amazon to commit to the "timeline required by science." 

The company in February set a goal to reach "50% of all Amazon shipments with net zero carbon by 2030," a project dubbed "Shipment Zero." 

The workers are calling for Amazon to cut emissions in half by 2030 and reach the goal of zero by 2050.

The employees in the letter criticize Amazon for donating to "climate-delaying legislators," saying the company last year donated to 68 members of Congress who voted against climate legislation "100% of the time." 

The letter lays out a six-step climate plan, including reducing climate "harm" in vulnerable communities, advocating globally for policies that seek to address climate change, and completely transitioning away from fossil fuels.

"We have the power to shift entire industries, inspire global action on climate, and lead on the issue of our lifetimes," they wrote. "We ask that you, as leaders responsible for our strategic direction, adopt the climate plan resolution and release a company-wide plan that incorporates the six principles above." 

— Updated on April 11 at 5:40 p.m.