Jeff Bezos wanted to do a big reveal when Amazon announced its Climate Pledge, and Amazon considered having him unveil it from a polar ice cap

Jeff Bezos
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

  • Jeff Bezos wanted a big reveal when Amazon announced its Climate Pledge in 2019.
  • One idea included having him announce the pledge from a polar ice cap.
  • Amazon settled on having Bezos unveil it at the National Press Club instead.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When Amazon unveiled its ambitious Climate Pledge two years ago, CEO Jeff Bezos wanted a big reveal.

In the months leading up to Amazon’s announcement in September 2019, Amazon employees worked to figure out the best “grand gesture” – like having Bezos reveal the Climate Pledge in a video he would personally film on a polar ice cap, according to the new book “Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire,” by Brad Stone.

According to Stone, employees from Amazon’s public relations department and sustainability teams spent a few days trying to figure out how to send Bezos to the Arctic before giving up on the idea. The plan would have been incredibly challenging, not to mention it would have left a notable carbon footprint – not the best look given that the Climate Pledge vows that Amazon will be carbon neutral by 2040.

A spokesperson for Amazon declined to comment.

Amazon eventually settled on having Bezos announce the pledge during a conversation at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, with Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Read more: Internal memo shows one tactic Amazon uses to force a set number of employees out every year

As part of the Climate Pledge, Amazon has pledged to regularly measure and report its emissions and to eventually eliminate its carbon use, and will meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, the United Nations’ climate change treaty, 10 years ahead of schedule. Since 2019, other major corporations like Uber and JetBlue have joined the pledge.

But Amazon’s own employees have criticized the company’s environmental initiatives, saying Amazon should push to be carbon neutral by 2030 instead.

In June of last year, Amazon announced that a Seattle sports arena that’s home to the WNBA’s Seattle Storm and Seattle’s NHL team would be renamed “Climate Pledge Arena” to serve “as a regular reminder of the urgent need for climate action.”

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Jeff Bezos downplays claims that Amazon workers are ‘desperate souls’ or ‘robots’ who can’t take bathroom breaks, but admits the company needs to ‘do a better job’ for employees after their failed union push

jeff bezos
Jeff Bezos, president and CEO of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post, speaks at the Economic Club of Washington DC’s “Milestone Celebration Dinner” in Washington, U.S., September 13, 2018.

  • Jeff Bezos defended Amazon employees’ working conditions in his 2020 letter to shareholders.
  • Bezos said workers are inaccurately portrayed as “desperate souls” and “robots” in news reports.
  • But after the failed Alabama union vote, Amazon needs to “do a better job” for workers, Bezos said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jeff Bezos is on the defensive about how Amazon treats its employees following the failed union vote at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse.

In Bezos’ 2020 letter to shareholders, his final letter as CEO of Amazon, he discussed Amazon’s relationship with its employees after workers voted against forming a union last week, a vote that Bezos called “lopsided.”

The vote count, which finished last Friday afternoon, showed that 1,798 employees had voted against unionizing and 738 had voted for the union. While over 500 votes were challenged and 76 votes were voided, 70.9% of the valid votes were against the union.

In his letter, Bezos said he feels Amazon’s direct relationship with employees is strong, but that the company needs “a better vision for how we create value for employees – a vision for their success.”

“Does your Chair take comfort in the outcome of the recent union vote in Bessemer? No, he doesn’t,” Bezos wrote. “I think we need to do a better job for our employees.”

Read more: Jeff Bezos responds to employee question about his resignation as CEO, says Amazon can ‘out-survive any individual in the company, including, of course, myself’

Bezos also indirectly discussed the controversy surrounding Amazon’s Twitter spat last month. In response to a tweet from Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan about working conditions at Amazon, Amazon’s Twitter account wrote: “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us.”

The tweet sparked an uproar among employees, mostly Amazon delivery drivers, who said that peeing in bottles is an “inhumane” yet common part of the job. Insider also spoke with several drivers who said that they’ve had to poop in bags and struggled to change menstrual pads during their shift, in addition to peeing in bottles.

According to James Bloodworth, a British author who went undercover at an Amazon fulfillment center in 2018, warehouse employees were scolded for taking bathroom breaks. He told Insider at the time that he found bottles of pee while on the job.

In his letter, Bezos called news reports about how Amazon employees are treated inaccurate, claiming that workers are portrayed as “desperate souls” and “robots.” He highlighted the informal break time that employees are able to take during their shifts to “stretch, get water, use the rest room, or talk to a manager,” which he said don’t impact performance. These breaks are in addition to a lunch break and other break workers get during their shifts, Bezos said.

Bezos also pushed back against the notion that employees are held to unachievable performance goals, which was a main theme in the union push: Workers told Insider they were unfairly punished for taking “time off task,” or time away from their workstations.

But Bezos said that performance is evaluated over a long period of time and employees are provided with coaching if they’re not meeting their goals.

“We don’t set unreasonable performance goals,” he said. “We set achievable performance goals that take into account tenure and actual employee performance data. Performance is evaluated over a long period of time as we know that a variety of things can impact performance in any given week, day, or hour.”

Bezos’ comments come amid increasing pressure on Amazon from all sides, particularly from lawmakers. Amazon’s Alabama union vote drew the attention of Sen. Bernie Sanders and President Joe Biden, who publicly supported the workers attempting to unionize and criticized Amazon’s aggressive campaign against the union. The company has also been the subject of antitrust scrutiny over the last year, with government leaders questioning Amazon’s power and influence.

As the pressure mounts, Bezos, who testified before Congress for the first time last year, will step aside as CEO in the third quarter of 2021 and will be replaced by AWS CEO Andy Jassy.

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Amazon’s consumer chief says the company is ‘like the Bernie Sanders of employers’ but that ‘we actually deliver a progressive workplace for our constituents’

Amazon SVP WW ops Dave Clark
Dave Clark, Amazon’s chief of worldwide consumer.

  • Amazon’s Dave Clark issued a fiery response to Bernie Sanders’ visit to its Alabama warehouse.
  • “We actually deliver a progressive workplace for our constituents,” Clark said.
  • Sanders has come out in support of the union and criticized Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ fortune.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon’s consumer chief is firing back at Sen. Bernie Sanders ahead of the Vermont politician’s visit to Amazon’s Alabama warehouse amid a union vote.

Sanders has plans to visit Birmingham, Alabama, on Friday to meet with Amazon workers in the final days of a vote to unionize at Amazon’s Bessemer fulfillment center. Dave Clark, who serves as CEO of worldwide consumer at Amazon, issued a fiery statement on Wednesday in response to Sanders’ visit.

“I welcome the Senator to Birmingham and appreciate his push for a progressive workplace,” Clark said in a statement to Insider. “I often say we are the Bernie Sanders of employers, but that’s not quite right because we actually deliver a progressive workplace for our constituents: a $15 minimum wage, health care from day one, career progression, and a safe and inclusive work environment.”

“So if you want to hear about $15 an hour and health care, Senator Sanders will be speaking downtown. But if you would like to make at least $15 an hour and have good health care, Amazon is hiring,” Clark said.

Sanders’ trip to Alabama comes as roughly 6,000 Amazon workers vote on whether or not to form a union, which would be the first at the company. The vote closes on March 29 and votes will be tallied on March 30.

Amazon has staunchly opposed the formation of a union, arguing that it would only cost workers more money in dues and provide benefits Amazon already gives them.

The company has aggressively pushed employees to vote against unionizing. Employees told Insider that Amazon had started handing out “vote no” pins and hosting frequent informational meetings about unions in addition to airing anti-union ads on Twitch and placing signs in bathrooms.

Sanders has been an outspoken critic of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos over his $184 billion fortune, and has come out in support of the Alabama employees’ unionization efforts.

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