Amazon says it stands with Black communities; Amazon also says it cares about climate change. But here’s the thing, actions speak louder than words.
Last year, Amazon’s carbon footprint increased by 15%. And despite claiming to stand with Black communities, Amazon’s energy usage and warehouses pollute Black and Brown communities disproportionally when compared to predominately white communities.
Amazon continues to disrespect warehouse workers, a quarter of which are Black. Earlier this year, when a Black warehouse worker, Chris Smalls, tried to organize around improving Amazon’s response to COVID-19, he was not only fired; Amazon’s general council called him ‘not smart or articulate’. Demeaning workers who raise concerns instead of taking worker safety seriously demonstrates what little respect Amazon executives have for the workers that make Amazon’s profits possible.
While Amazon was trying to distract consumers with its statement on police brutality and “standing with the Black community”, it was busy firming up 29 new partnerships with police departments for the use of Ring as a tool of surveillance, which includes a police department just miles away from where George Floyd was killed. As Americans across the country were (and still are) calling to end police brutality, for an end to systemic racism, for accountability for all the Black lives unjustly lost at the hands of police officers – Amazon was working to profit off the situation.
Additionally this week, Amazon was caught lying about the infection rates in warehouses. On a 60 Minutes interview this spring, an Amazon representative stated that the rates of COVID-19 infections in Amazon facilities are “generally just under what the actual community infection rates are”. But a leaked memo showed that this was not true, and Amazon knew it wasn’t.
This seems to be one of Amazon’s tactics: distract with positive PR all while perpetuating harmful practices.
Let’s look at Amazon’s response to climate change:
Amazon announced a $2 billion climate fund to invest in technologies addressing climate change, which follows on Bezos’ pledge of $10 billion in climate change donations. Amazon even went so far as to buy the naming rights of Seattle’s NHL stadium to name it the Climate Pledge Arena.
While investments and donations are nice, it would be nicer if Amazon’s operations weren’t designed to exploit the planet. For example, while pledging to advance technologies to address climate change, Amazon simultaneously is working with oil and gas companies to use its computing technology to find more fossil fuels.
And, Amazon has failed to make clear if its new $2 billion investment fund or Jeff Bezos’ pledge of $10 billion will address the impact of pollutants and climate change on Black and Brown communities caused by the company’s operations. Air pollution has many harmful health impacts, including increasing an individual’s risk of having a severe case of COVID-19 and was recently linked to serious pregnancy risks.
Amazon Employees for Climate Justice’s (AECJ) research has shown: “the majority of Amazon’s facilities are located in zip codes that have a higher percentage of POCs than the majority of zip codes in their metropolitan area. This indicates that when Amazon builds its logistics infrastructure in a metropolitan area, it’s likely to put them in neighborhoods where a high proportion of the community is Black, Latinx, or Indigenous. In contrast, Amazon’s corporate offices are in zip codes with smaller percentages of Black, Latinx and Indigenous residents..... Amazon’s logistics infrastructure, and its associated pollution, is concentrated in communities of color.”
Racial justice and climate justice are inextricably linked; falling short on one results in falling short on both. Amazon continues to fail the planet and workers while trying to distract us all from what it is doing. Amazon has proven to be an important source for staples for many during this pandemic, but if its operations continue as is, we’ll all suffer as Jeff Bezos rapidly expands Amazon’s reach and even explores ways to colonize space. Its time Amazon is held accountable for its actions that harm people and the planet!
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