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Amazon Makes 'Climate Pledge' As Workers Plan Walkout

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announces the company's climate initiative Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Paul Morigi
Getty Images for Amazon
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announces the company's climate initiative Thursday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Amazon is "done being in the middle of the herd" when it comes to climate-focused company policies, CEO Jeff Bezos said Thursday.

The company is pledging to power its global infrastructure with 100% renewable energy by 2030 and to be carbon-neutral by 2040. To help get there, it plans to buy 100,000 electric delivery vans from Michigan-based company Rivian, in which Amazon previously invested.

Amazon says its Climate Pledge will meet the Paris climate agreement 10 years ahead of schedule. The company is also inviting other companies to sign onto the pledge.

"It's a difficult challenge for us because we have deep large physical infrastructure. We're not only moving information around ... we deliver more than 10 billion items a year," Bezos told reporters Thursday. "And so we can make the argument — and we plan to do so passionately — that if we can do this, anyone can do this."

Amazon's announcement marks the most sweeping climate-related action from the company, one day before more than 1,500 corporate workers planned a walkoutto draw attention to their criticisms of the company's climate policies. Amazon has lagged behind other companies — including tech giants like Facebook and Google — in reaching the goal of 100% renewable energy and sharing data about its emissions.

The Amazon workers' planned walkout Friday is part of a series of rallies called the Global Climate Strike ahead of Monday's U.N. Climate Action Summit. Workers complained that the company known for its obsession with data and measurable goals would not share data on its own carbon footprint, calling on Amazon to get to zero emissions by 2030.

"Today, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we'll be in the streets to continue the fight for a livable future," the group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice said in a statement Thursday. The walkout also is expected to draw some workers from Google, Facebook and Microsoft.

Thousands of Amazon employees earlier this year signed a shareholder resolution to set a climate change plan, which did not pass. More than 8,000 workers had also signed an open letter to Bezos, calling for Amazon to set measurable goals, to end contracts with oil and gas companies and to stop donating to lawmakers who deny climate change.

"I think it's totally understandable people are passionate about this issue," Bezos said, adding that Amazon would review its campaign donations. The company will also invest $100 million to restore and protect forests, grasslands and wetlands.

However, Bezos said he disagreed with the employees' call to end contracts with energy companies and stop providing them with cloud computing tools. "To ask oil and energy companies to do this transition with bad tools is not a good idea and we won't do that," he said.

Elizabeth Sturcken, a managing director at the Environmental Defense Fund, called Amazon's Climate Pledge an encouraging step in the right direction.

"They were in danger of being left behind as a laggard," she said. "There's a lot of hard work ahead for Amazon. But these ambitious, aspirational goals need to be turned into meaningful milestones, and they need to act transparently."

Bezos said Amazon will measure and regularly report online information about its carbon footprint and work toward reducing it.

Editor's note: Amazon is one of NPR's recent financial supporters.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alina Selyukh is a business correspondent at NPR, where she follows the path of the retail and tech industries, tracking how America's biggest companies are influencing the way we spend our time, money, and energy.
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