- Amazon shareholders last week rejected a climate action resolution supported by nearly 7,700 Amazon workers, according to a press release from Amazon Employees for Climate Justice.
- Workers outlined their concerns in an open letter in April, urging the company to transition from fossil fuels, align its goals with climate action timelines set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and prioritize pollution reduction in vulnerable communities first, among other changes. Two of the largest proxy advisors in the U.S. — ISS and Glass Lewis— supported the workers’ proposal but the board said it "believes that Amazon is already doing this, especially given our commitment to disclose our overall carbon footprint, along with related goals and programs," in a letter.
- The workers said that with climate change accelerating, existing initiatives don’t do enough: "In six months, we’ve won changes including Shipment Zero and a commitment to share our company’s carbon footprint," Jamie Kowalski, an Amazon software development engineer, said in the press release, "but we know these half-steps are not nearly enough to address the scale of our company’s contributions toward the climate crisis."
Workers in tech, and across industries, have articulated their concerns boldly and collectively over the past year. Alleged complicity and retaliation to sexual harassment claims, the treatment of contingent workers and the ethics of several government projects are a few issues that have catalyzed tech worker action. Recent research confirms that activism may be growing, with almost half of millennial employees polled identifying as worker activists.
While these workers may wish to affect change, the desire to improve the workplace can stem from a sense of pride in their organizations, as the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice resolution notes. "Amazon’s leadership is urgently needed. We’re a company that understands the importance of thinking big, taking ownership of hard problems, and earning trust," the group said in its open letter. "These traits have made Amazon a top global innovator but have been missing from the company’s approach to climate change."
Talent pros might look to the tensions in tech when evaluating company culture and collaborate with workers who are just as invested in the organizational mission. What initiatives can ensure workers are included and heard? How can participation come from the bottom — and improve the bottom line? What risk does ignoring workers’ concerns pose to retention, engagement and profitability? Incorporating their ideas into policy or corporate social responsibility initiatives could give an employer a leg up in recruiting and retention.