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Amazon workers criticize company on climate despite job risk

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Hundreds of Amazon employees are openly criticizing the retailer's record on climate change despite what they say is a company policy that puts their jobs at risk for speaking out.

On Sunday, more than 300 employees of the online retail giant signed their names and job titles to statements on a blog post on Medium. The online protest was organized by a group called Amazon Employees For Climate Justice, an advocacy group founded by Amazon workers that earlier this month said the company had sent letters to its members threatening to fire them if they continued to speak to the press.

"It's our moral responsibility to speak up, and the changes to the communications policy are censoring us from exercising that responsibility," said Sarah Tracy, a software development engineer at Amazon, in a statement. "Now is not the time to silence employees, especially when the climate crisis poses such an unprecedented threat to humanity."

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In a statement emailed by Amazon Employees For Climate Justice to CBS MoneyWatch, one software development engineer said the issue is important enough that hundreds of employees are going public despite the risks. 

"This clearly shows that as Amazon tech workers have reflected upon what is the right thing to do at this moment, they decided that they needed to keep speaking out," the engineer, Victoria Liang, said in the statement.

Amazon and fossil fuels

Amazon said that its policy on external communications is not new and is in keeping with what other large companies demand of their workers. It said the policy applies to all Amazon employees and is not directed at any specific group.

"While all employees are welcome to engage constructively with any of the many teams inside Amazon that work on sustainability and other topics, we do enforce our external communications policy and will not allow employees to publicly disparage or misrepresent the company or the hard work of their colleagues who are developing solutions to these hard problems," according to an Amazon spokesperson.

Amazon, which relies on fossil fuels to power the planes, trucks and vans that ship packages all over the world, has an enormous carbon footprint. And its workers have been vocal in criticizing some of the company's practices.

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Last year, more than 8,000 staffers signed an open letter to CEO and founder Jeff Bezos demanding that Amazon cut its carbon emissions, end its use of fossil fuels and stop its work with oil companies that use Amazon's technology to locate fossil fuel deposits.

Amazon said in a statement that it is passionate about climate change issues and has already pledged to become net zero carbon by 2040. Some Amazon employees, however, have called on Amazon to achieve zero emissions by 2030, according to Amazon Employees For Climate Justice.

Other tech companies have made greater efforts to reduce their carbon footprints, the group added. For instance, it pointed to Microsoft's plan to become "carbon negative." As reported by CBS MoneyWatch, Microsoft plans to achieve its goal by 2030, eventually removing more carbon from the environment than it emits. 

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