The Guardian: Termination Threat for Employees who Criticise Amazon’s Climate Policy

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

According to the Guardian, Amazon has threatened to fire employees who publicly call for Amazon to do more about climate change.

Amazon threatened to fire employees for speaking out on climate, workers say

Revealed: emails show group of employees who called for stronger climate action by the company were told they risked dismissal 

Oliver Milman in New York @olliemilman
Fri 3 Jan 2020 04.22 AEDT

Amazon has threatened to fire employees for speaking publicly about the company’s role in the climate crisis, tech workers at the retail giant have revealed.

An email shared with the Guardian shows Amazon’s human resources department launched an “investigation” into one employee, Maren Costa, over comments made to the media that called for the company to do more to tackle the climate crisis.

In the email, Costa is told she will not face punishment at this point – but that any future comments unauthorized by Amazon “may result in formal corrective action, to and including termination of your employment with Amazon”.Advertisement

A group of Amazon employees who banded together to call for stronger climate action by the company said several members have been questioned by legal and HR representatives about their public comments. Some received follow-up emails similar to Costa’s that threaten dismissal for speaking out in the future.

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I’m shocked, deeply shocked I tell you, that anyone could accuse a climate champion like Amazon of not doing everything possible to address their corporate CO2 emissions.

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Randle Dewees
January 3, 2020 2:31 pm

Cake, eat – take your choice

Joel Snider
January 3, 2020 2:36 pm


Gary Pearse
Reply to  Joel Snider
January 3, 2020 5:52 pm

How long would your employment last at the GUARDIAN if you wrote articles skewering climate alarm!!

Bryan A
Reply to  Gary Pearse
January 3, 2020 6:49 pm

1 article, never put to print

Bill Powers
Reply to  Joel Snider
January 4, 2020 10:29 am

Coercion? Seems that is what some Amazon employees are attempting to practice by putting public pressure on their employer. Bad move on their part. Try that in a socialist country were complainers have a tendency to disappear.

My private sector employer has every right to threaten me, as an employee, with termination if I speak out publicly in such a way as to disparage the company or place them in a compromising position. The founding fathers got it right. Is this a great country or what?

Reply to  Bill Powers
January 13, 2020 5:59 pm

Amazon realizes that its customer base includes people on both sides of the issue. Trying to remain non-political is a smart and ethical choice.

John Bell
January 3, 2020 2:37 pm

Amazon is just a middle man, a retailer, they do not make anything, how can they control the climate?

Reply to  John Bell
January 3, 2020 3:50 pm

I have no idea how valid this is but …

Having an Amazon delivery person drive 0.5 km between deliveries has to be way more fuel efficient than having 80 people jump in their cars and drive 5 km to the local mall and back. (The numbers are a WAG.)

0.5 x 80 = 40
80 x (5 + 5) = 800

I keep reading stories about how our streets are going to be clogged with delivery vehicles. I suspect the opposite is true. Anyway, Amazon could argue that its carbon footprint is less than that of conventional retailers once you take everything into account. (That’s coming from a guy who will bend over backward to support local retailers and only uses Amazon as a last resort less than once a month.)

Rich Davis
Reply to  commieBob
January 4, 2020 11:26 am

Interesting thoughts as usual Commie Bob.

Not sure how close your WAG is, but I’m pretty sure that your conclusion is warranted.

The distance driven per delivery, the relative fuel efficiency of a passenger car to a delivery van, and the average customer’s distance to a retail store would seem to be the relevant factors.

If we assume conservative values for all of these factors, such as an average of 3km (1.8 miles) driven per delivery, 5km (3 miles) distance to the mall, and 3x the fuel efficiency for the car trip, it should still be 10% less fuel consumed by the delivery service.

Reply to  commieBob
January 4, 2020 9:26 pm

While I think your WAG isn’t bad the business model will change which will change the possible savings in congestion/fuel. Porch pirates are causing enough problems that Amazon has started opening package storage sites where consumers come pick up their package (and drop off returns) instead of having them delivered to their door. Our closest site is located in our local Whole Foods store. You have the package delivered there then pick it up with an app on your phone, they also have the place manned during business hours so you don’t have to use an app if you don’t want to.

Can still be closer than driving your 5k trip but it also might be farther.

Richard Patton
Reply to  Darrin
January 5, 2020 1:42 pm

And our nearest pickup site is 6 miles away in the center of downtown. Not very environmentally friendly I’d sayl

Joseph F Zeise
Reply to  John Bell
January 3, 2020 4:09 pm

How about their many delivery vehicles? Even if they were all electric, they need charging. What is the source of fuel for the electric grid? Is it Coal, Natural Gas, or Fuel Oil?

Rick C PE
Reply to  John Bell
January 3, 2020 4:47 pm

Clearly, Amazon needs to change their delivery system so that all packages are delivered by bicycle messenger. Long distance transfers must be done by electric train or sailing vessel.

Reply to  Rick C PE
January 3, 2020 5:53 pm

If you’re right down town and you just want to send an envelope a block, a bike messenger makes sense.

People need to be fed and housed. Compared with equipment they are quite inefficient.

When you compare all the costs, ocean going fossil fueled vessels are really efficient. link

Going back to human labor is in no way smart or even environmental, just mental.

Reply to  Rick C PE
January 4, 2020 6:24 am

…Long distance transfers must be done by electric train or sailing vessel.
Could this be young Miss Thunberg ‘s calling or did she have nefarious plans to gain a monopoly in the market all the time?

Reply to  John Bell
January 9, 2020 3:56 am

They could deliver their stuff by mule?

Ed Zuiderwijk
January 3, 2020 2:38 pm

There is no ‘climate crisis’. So how can anybody do anything about something that does not exist?

January 3, 2020 2:40 pm

An employee’s public comments about his employer can be considered misconduct where those statements are harmful to the employer’s interests or damaging to its business. link

If they’re not in senior management, they have no idea what Amazon’s policies and intentions really are. The only thing their on line comments can do is cause problems for their employer. I’d say they were lucky to get a warning and if they are smart, they will shut up.

Clarky of Oz
Reply to  commieBob
January 3, 2020 2:56 pm

Precisely. Read your employment contract.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Clarky of Oz
January 4, 2020 6:56 am

Many contracts never state these sorts of clauses directly in the papers you sign (In my Australian experience anyway, most people can’t easily print 300-400 pages). They usually direct you to a more detailed “policy document” or “Terms and Conditions” etc at their “website” which you never fully get to see before you sign.

Well, do you want to work or not? ‘Coz there are a thousand behind you that will. Your choice!

Clarky of Oz
January 3, 2020 2:45 pm

Having worked for a rather large corporation for several years (now retired), I would expect any corporation to take disciplinary action against any employee who criticizes company policy in public.

January 3, 2020 3:06 pm

Time for me to support amazon and order those golf clubs i’ve been looking at for so long, i guess.

Pillage Idiot
Reply to  Chaamjamal
January 3, 2020 4:31 pm

I just ordered 100 miles of asphalt county road (pre-assembled).

Good thing I have Amazon Prime for the free shipping!

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Pillage Idiot
January 3, 2020 9:57 pm

Third party sellers at Amazon are raiding garbage cans at the back of stores and then selling the items online with the products being sent from Amazon Prime distribution centres.

Richard Patton
January 3, 2020 3:44 pm

I.E. “Shut your mouth and do your job!!”

Walter Sobchak
January 3, 2020 3:46 pm

I am pleased that a tech company started to at like a real employer, rather than a college campus. Google take notes. Employees you are here to work on our business not to have us ride your hobby horses.

January 3, 2020 3:48 pm

Hmmmmm. I might change my mind about Amazon and begin ordering from them again.

Plqnning Engineer
January 3, 2020 4:07 pm

What company of any significance allows their employees to publicly criticize company policies, practices and goals?

January 3, 2020 4:37 pm

The Entitled Generation.
Biting the hand the feeds you is now common.
This would be different if it were a whistle blower situation; but it is not – they are just protesting their own employer.
I worked for a Division Manager (Superintendent in the good ol’ days) who had a disagreement regarding company land use near his home (Should a company owned property at a river Turning Point be upgraded to handle modern barges or developed as a public park). His side won and he felt honor bound to resign his position.

Integrity is one of the values the current generation feel is no longer relevant. (Go Boomer!)

January 3, 2020 5:09 pm

Isn’t Amazon the company that was denied a place to build a distribution center in NYC, losing 25,000 jobs for that city, and the culpable individual in that act was Her Nitwittedness A. Occasionally-Conscious?

nw sage
January 3, 2020 5:43 pm

No matter WHAT the company’s business ANY outside comments by an employee that can be seen as not reflecting favorably on the businesses reputation and capability is out of order.

John Endicott
Reply to  nw sage
January 3, 2020 7:49 pm

Indeed, and at most businesses, such behavoir can easily get you fired.

Gary Pearse
January 3, 2020 5:51 pm

This has been company and government policy since forever. I had a stint in government about 45yrs ago and to publish scientific papers that had no policy or partisan gov content, I still had to have it reviewed by bosses and okayed. Today the wokey tokies cry out they are being muzzled. There wasn’t much muzzling in my time because we were smart enough to know whether what we published was political or not. Sheesh it can be painful to be smart in a dumbing down world sometimes, can’t it?

January 3, 2020 6:03 pm

I wonder how the people who supported the sacking of Izzy Folau are handling this move by Amazon. (The Izzy Folau episode had high exposure in Australia. He was sacked for statements contrary to his employer’s policy but unrelated to his employer’s business. People with no sympathy for Izzy Folau’s statements had no sympathy for Izzy Folau.).

Reply to  Mike Jonas
January 3, 2020 6:26 pm

True, but you must remember a couple of points:
1. Izzy had a contract that didn’t include a gag clause
2. Izzy wasn’t fired by his employer, which was his club. He was fired by the football association to which his club belonged.

They were in an astoundingly weak position, which is why they had to fold when it became obvious that Izzy had a well funded legal team that was willing to go all the way.

Reply to  Hivemind
January 5, 2020 10:14 am

Thanks, Hivemind.

Ed Bo
January 3, 2020 6:22 pm

The biggest thing Amazon could do to reduce its CO2 emissions is to cut back on heating and air conditioning its huge warehouses. But employees have long been complaining that these warehouses are not kept in comfortable temperature ranges as it is.

Amazon is actively pursuing advanced robotics to automate these warehouses as much as possible, with a key goal to reduce heating and cooling costs. These employees who argue that Amazon is not doing enough may be really disappointed when Amazon actually “does enough”.

michael hart
January 3, 2020 6:24 pm

I’ve always made the working assumption that you don’t publicly criticize your employer if you wish to continue working there on good terms.

January 4, 2020 2:53 am

Has anyone seen this :
Canadian-based General Fusion Inc. which is supported by Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos, announced in a press release on Dec. 16 that US$65 million in new financing, led by global investment company, Singapore-based Temasek, along with C$50 million from the Canadian government’s Strategic Innovation Fund, will allow it to take the next steps in its fusion project. All told, since its founding in 2002, General Fusion has attracted more than US$200 million in funding.
The press release explains that “the prototype facility is intended to confirm the performance of General Fusion’s magnetized target fusion technology in a power plant relevant environment.”
The General Fusion approach to creating fusion is described as a “magnetized target fusion technology.” It uses a sphere filled with molten lead-lithium that is pumped to form a vortex. A pulse of magnetically-confined plasma fuel is then injected into the vortex. Around the sphere, an array of pistons drive a pressure wave into the center of the sphere, compressing the plasma to fusion conditions. This process is then repeated, while the heat from the reaction is captured in the liquid metal and used to generate electricity via a steam turbine.
The General Fusion approach is a seemingly odd combination of the most advanced scientific concepts and the use of “practical, existing technology,” as in the 19th-century “steam-powered pistons” to compress the plasma to fusion conditions. “Not requiring the exotic lasers or giant magnets found in other fusion approaches, steam pistons can be practically implemented in a commercial power plant,” the company offers as a selling point. The electricity, it states, is produced by steam turbines, also a 19th-century technology.

Fusion is the best way to deal with the “climate consensus”, and there is no consensus on the best way to do it.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  bonbon
January 4, 2020 5:41 am

“The General Fusion approach is a seemingly odd combination of the most advanced scientific concepts and the use of “practical, existing technology,” as in the 19th-century “steam-powered pistons” to compress the plasma to fusion conditions. “Not requiring the exotic lasers or giant magnets found in other fusion approaches, steam pistons can be practically implemented in a commercial power plant,”

That’s very interesting. Thanks for the info, bonbon.

Reply to  bonbon
January 4, 2020 6:43 am

I have a prototype perpetual motion machine and need investors. Please send lots of cash. I promise it will work. Honest.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  bonbon
January 4, 2020 6:58 am

Fusion is easy. We can do that now. Problem is, containing it. And for that we need a gravity “box” the likes of the Sun on Earth to do that. Yeah, not happening!

Reply to  Patrick MJD
January 6, 2020 3:32 am

Fusion is hard, and that’s exactly why to do it, to paraphrase JFK.

A bit like Leibniz’s remark that it would be more productive to use gunpowder instead of just hot steam in the first engine of French engineer Papin. He was right, and would love the oil industry.

January 4, 2020 4:08 am

from what i read of their abuse of employees insane demands on them and lousy treatment of imnjured workers etc
I would never buy a thing from them
and figure its just desperation that forces people to work for them and places like walmart

January 4, 2020 7:45 am

All this over a meaningless carbon footprint. That is real stupidity. Politics completely overruled and science, real true science not allowed. The American educational system has been a true leader in closed minded like-think indoctrination, which has been its main focus for the last 30 years -at least. Maybe since the mid 1800’s

Richard Patton
Reply to  Jim
January 4, 2020 9:36 am

Starting with evolution. An elementary or secondary school teacher can and have been fired for letting their students know that there is no unanimity among evolutionary scientists as to the hows and whys of evolution. They must teach that everything is settled that we know how it happens (we don’t) and we know how life started (we don’t) and we know what descended from what (we don’t). It’s just like the 97% BS in Climate science. There is a heck of a lot we don’t know, but since it’s science we must teach the children that it is settled science, that no scientist disagrees. The problem is that we think because of what we have learned that we know it all. I don’t know who said this but it is true, “the first step to learning is learning what you don’t know.” The problem is we don’t know what we don’t know, and the educational establishment would have you believe we have it all figured out, and that is why American children are so dismal in science. They are indoctrinated, not taught.

Robert of Texas
January 4, 2020 10:08 am

You have a right to your private beliefs and convictions, and Amazon has a right to protect its own self-image. Keep the two separate and you are gold. If you want to speak out pro-climate change then do it on your own time and keep Amazon’s name out of it – then there is no conflict.

I don’t know when this “entitlement” culture started, but you do not have a right to work at a business and publicly criticize it at the same time. Work inside the framework to change the culture, if you cannot do this then find a new place to work and THEN you can criticize Amazon!

January 5, 2020 10:11 am

The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Robert Wille
January 6, 2020 1:24 pm

Any company with a PR department prohibits non-PR employees from talking to the press, regardless of whether their comments are favorable or not.

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