Company Culture Expert: ‘Listening’ Might Have Prevented Amazon Employee Walkout

(Article by Rob Smith originally appeared in Seattle Business Magazine)

Amazon Employees Prepare to Walk Out Over Climate Change Inaction on Sept. 20

More than 1,000 Amazon Inc. employees in Seattle and at offices around the globe are planning to walk out of work Sept. 20 to protest the company’s inaction on climate change.

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice want the company to commit to zero emissions by 2030, according to a press release the employee group posted on Twitter. The group notes that it’s the first time Amazon workers at corporate offices are walking out, and also says it’s the first walkout in the tech industry over the climate crisis.

“Young people all around the world have been striking from school to call attention to the climate crisis,” says Bobby Gordon, a finance manager at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. “We’re answering their call to walk out because our role, as employees of one of the largest companies in the world, means we need to push for a climate plan that gets us to zero emissions company-wide by 2030.”

Henry Albrecht, CEO at Seattle-based Limeade – a company that works with employers to improve company culture and communication – says Amazon might have prevented the walkout by doing a better job of listening to employee concerns and recognizing a possible disconnect between what’s good for employees versus what’s good for the business.

At this point, he urges the world’s largest online retailer to “worry less about minimizing the public relations fall out” and to focus on the values of the business.

“Perhaps two simple questions make sense to focus on,” he says. “How can we at Amazon create healthy forums or avenues for employees to express their opinions? And how are they going to act on that feedback when they receive it?”

Last year, a group of employees filed a shareholder resolution that would have required the company to release a plan for reducing its reliance on fossil fuels. More than 8,200 employees have signed an open letter to founder and CEO Jeff Bezos in support of the resolution.

Amazon employees plan to walk out at 11:30 a.m., gather with other tech workers and march to join youth groups and others at Seattle City Hall for a climate justice rally, according to the press release.