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Amazon???s Footprint in the Environment and Economy

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on April 1, 2015 at 7:20 PM

Abstract

 

Environmental issues and employee diversity rates of Amazon.com Inc are of concern to both society and stakeholders. The question is whether or not they are fullfilling society’s expectations on how they should operate. Whilst there are areas in need of improvement, it appears that Amazon.com Inc. are quite the revolutionary leaders in their field, ahead of their competitors due to their active nature of addressing key issues and implementing positive change as soon as it is highlighted.

 

Introduction

 

Founded in 1994, Amazon today has 237 million active users and earned more than 214 million in net sales in the fourth quarter of 2014 (Statista 2014). Their mission is to be the largest online bookshop in the world with the largest catalogue, distribution, access to customers, known brand and at the same time, increasing their profit and minimising their costs (Al-Mashari 2002, 184). As a result, Amazon remains in the spotlight with every action and inaction in the public eye, issues such as the environment, human rights and employee diversity examined in much detail, making them the leader in their field charged with the responsibility of setting examples for both society and stakeholders. This essay attempts to examine their successes and failures in regards to their environmental impact in addition to employee diversity.

 

Environment

 

Through initiatives such as examining the packaging options available to manufacturers, companies and brands, Amazon has certified over 200,000 products and enabled the Amazon Fustration-Free Packaging Certification initiative which has resulted in 100% recyclable packaging and products shipped in their own packages without the need for additional shipping boxes (Amazon 2015). But it isn’t just packaging that is of concern to the stakeholders and consumers of Amazon. A quick search of Google reveals that water conservation, energy savings, renewable energy products and their garden-to-table methods are of equal importance (Nidamarthi 2011). These are further more likely to be reduced with online shopping options over the traditional brick-and-mortal stores (Edwards, McKinnon and Cullinane 2009, 8), particularly with the reliance of having the product delivered to the consumer, which reduces the consumer’s emission factors generated by travelling to shops looking for products (DEFRA 2007).

 

Although Amazon doesn’t release eBook sales statistics, in 2008, it was reported that $112 million worth of eBooks was sold, with Amazon holding a 45% market share (Ritch, 2009: 5). For the environment, buying eBooks over print books prevents “5.3 billion kg of CO2 in 2012 alone” (ibid) due to not having to process paper and ship books. Although it must be stated that The Cleantech’s Report, in regards to the savings of billions of carbon dioxide, may contain bias due to their serious investment in technology such as Kindle (Callicott 2010, 81).

 

Books alone in the United States consumed approximately 30 million trees in 2006, equating to a carbon footprint of 12.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (Green Press Initiative 2011:3). In 2013 alone, sales of hardcopy books increased by 10% (Greenfield 2013) with Amazon earning $11 billion in sales compared to their 2006 figure of $3.5 billion (Rosenthal 2014). Once can imagine the effect this would have on the environment, in particularly the consumption of trees. There is nothing to say on the Amazon Website that their books are made of recyclable materials but this would be difficult to gauge in the first place due to millions of different sellers using a variety of printers who don’t share the same recycle policies and missions.

 

EBook readers are believed to be made out of “lead solder, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium and flame retardants which have been linked to health problems” (Hutsko 2009). Although the European Union limits the use of these materials in the making of these products, they have a policy in place to recycle all electronics but the United States does not have this policy in place and although Amazon offers free recycling of the Kindle product, they have declined revealing how this program works (Callicott 2010, 81). In the making of the Kindle, Amazon utilises the services of an “inefficient coal fired plant” (ibid) and it appears they have made no positive contribution to the environment in the shipping process of the Kindle to their final destination pre-sale. Giant shipping containers use bunker fuel, which can emit “the same amount of cancer- and asthma-causing chemicals as fifty million cars and release as much as 5,000 tons of sulfur oxide into the air annually” (Vidal 2009). There is also nothing on the Amazon website to contest these statements.

 

Amazon is just as responsible as Barnes and Nobles and the New York Times when it comes to utilising huge computer servers to power eBooks, as “1.5% of the entire electricity usage for all of the United States goes to power data servers” (Callicott 2010, 83). This is compounded upon the realisation that about half of this energy emanates from coal fired energy plants which is “dirty and is responsible for huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions” (ibid).

 

On a positive note, Amazon’s initiative titled the Kaizen Program is charged with the mission of working together “to implement environmental and energy initiatives across all parts of the company . . . dive deep into every nook and cranny of a process to identify waste and design alternative solutions that are more energy efficient” (Amazon 2015). Whether or not this will benefit every area such as shipping and the power servers in the near future is just something we will have to wait and see.

 

Employment and equality

 

Two months after the famed civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson called on Amazon to disclose the makeup up for their employees, Amazon bowed to the pressure and released their figures (Cook 2014). Out of the entire global workforce, 63% are male whilst in the United States, 15% are black, 13% Asian and in terms of Manager positions, 4% are black (Sopher 2014). To increase the Black employee rates, Amazon have introduced a scheme called the Black Employee Network, which aims to “help recruit and contribute to a community for employees of colour” (Amazon 2015b). Employees and interns are paired up with mentors in addition to providing career and personal development workshops throughout the year.

 

For women, there is the Amazon Women in Engineering scheme which aims to provide a workplace environment for women who are technical minded and trained. It appears to be a success, particularly due to the Women Engineering Magazine naming Amazon as the third most wanted company “for whom they would most like to work or that they believe would provide a positive working environment for women” (Equal Opportunity Publications 2014:1).

 

Amazon reflected on these statistics and blamed the disparity of minority and women employees on the “lack of science, technology, engineering and mathematics encouragements for these groups in schools” (Mac 2014). As a result of that statement, they have pledged contributions to increase both computer and science learning among children and teens, the next potential generation of Amazonian employees in hope of a more positive employment rate for women and minorities. This is unlikely to make a difference, particularly as it appears that these classes opt of this education pathway by choice, in particularly technology and engineering.

 

Further criticism has emerged from the lack of detail on employee structure in different levels of the company, so one could only guess that they represent a far worse reflection of these classes as you move higher up the corporate ladder (de Looper 2014).

 

On a positive note, Amazon’s diverse statistics are quite good when compared to Facebook and Microsoft who employ 31% female, 2% black, and 30% female, 2% black respectively (Cook 2014). It appears that even if Amazon’s employee diversity was stronger for the black community and females, they would still attract criticism particularly as they could not be perfectly equal but this could be difficult as employees are usually recruited for their education, experience and talent and not their colour of their skin or gender. In addition, the fact that they are addressing these issues with relevant in-house programs and school funding show that they are committed to representing the American people.

 

Conclusion

 

Amazon is fulfilling society’s expectations by making headway with both their environmental and employee diversity policies. Although these things take time, research already shows that they are a leader in their feed and actively seek out improvements to address areas of concern. Some areas of transport for instance, are difficult to improve, and this includes the giant shipping containers utilising bunker fuel which could be regarded as something out of their hands. It can be seen that Amazon are making a positive environmental effort with a range of implementations such as reducing packaging by offering companies a free examination of their products, being environmentally green and reducing tree resources through the sales of ebooks, which is sure to please both society and stakeholders alike.

 

Employment diversity is also a difficult issue to tackle due to education, experience and talent on one side of the scale and both gender and skin colour on the other. Whether a company should risk the quality input over hiring unskilled or untalented people who cannot perform the job adequately to ease the concerns of society and stakeholders is an issue of concern. This is being addressed the best way Amazon knows how, by implementing innovative schemes and education funding but already, they are ahead of their competitors in relation to diversity and gender which should satisfy us.

 

It appears Amazon’s contributions to society is revolutionary, particularly due to their active role in meeting societal and stakeholder standards, addressing environmental issues that arise and implementing innovative schemes, which could be barely said for their competitors. They are a remarkable company with profits in mind, just like any other operation business but they give back almost as much as they take.

 

Delphine Jamet

 

Director of Streetkid Industries – http://www.streetkidindustries.com

 

Author of Deep Into Dark – download the first chapter free at http://www.deepintodark.com/documents/Pages%20from%20DID%20FInal%20Edited.pdf 

Director of Streetkid Industries – http://www.streetkidindustries.com ;

LinkedIn: au.linkedin.com/in/youthworkauthordelphinejamet

Twitter: @deepintodark

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DeepIntoDark?fref=ts


 

References

 

Al-Mashari, Majed. 2002. “Electronic commerce: A comparative study of organizational experiences.” Benchmarking: An international journal 9(2): 182-189.

 

Amazon.com Inc. 2015. “Amazon’s innovations for our planet.” Amazon.com Inc. Accessed March 27. http://www.amazon.com/b/ref=gw_m_b_corpres? ie=UTF8 &node=13786321

 

Amazon.com Inc. 2015b. “Diversity at Amazon.” Amazon.com Inc. Accessed March 27. http://www.amazon.com/b/ref=tb_surl_diversity/?node=10080092011#

 

Callicott, Burton. B. 2010. “EVT: A comparison of the relative environmental impact of electronic and traditional methods of publication.” Against The Grain 22(3): 81-83.

 

Cook, John. 2014. “Rev. Jesse Jackson to Amazon: Please, release your diversity numbers.” Geek Wire. Accessed March 27. http://www.geekwire.com/2014/rev-jesse-jackson-amazon-please-release-diversity-numbers/#disqus_thread

 

Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). 2008. “Passenger transport emissions factors.” Methodology Paper. June 2007. Retrieved 27 March. http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climatechange/uk/ukccp/pdf/greengas-policyevaluation.pdf

 

De Looper, Christian. 2014. “Diversity not in stock at Amazon as white males dominate company.” Tech Times. Accessed 27 March. http://www.techtimes.com/ articles/ 19390/20141103/diversity-stock-amazon-white-male-dominated-company.htm

 

Edwards, J. B., McKinnon, A.C., & Cullinane, S.L. 2009. “Carbon auditing the ‘last mile’: modelling the environmental impacts of conventional and online non-food shopping.” Logistics Research Centre. Edinburgh Scotland: Heriot-Watt University,

 

Equal Opportunity Publications. 2014. “Readers’ Choice Awards.” http://www.eop.com/awards-WE.php

 

Greenfield, Jeremy. 2013. “Hardcover sales growth outpacing ebooks in 2013.”

 

Forbes. Accessed 27 March. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeremygreenfield /2013/11/19/ hardcover-sales-growth-outpacing-ebooks-in-2013/

 

Green Press Initiative. 2011. “Environmental impacts of e-books.” Green Press Intiative. Accessed 27 March. http://www.greenpressinitiative.org/documents/ebooks.pdf

 

Hutsko, Joe. 2009. “Are e-readers greener than books?” The New York Times. Assessed 27 March. http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/31/are-e-readers-greener-than-books/

 

Mac, Ryan. 2014. “Amazon releases diversity numbers for the first time and surprise, it’s mostly white and male.” Forbes. Assessed 27 March. http://www.forbes.com/sites/ ryanmac/2014/10/31/amazon-releases-diversity-numbers-for-first-time-and surprise-its-mostly-male-and-white/

 

Nidamarthi, Lakshmi. 2011. “Amazon’s purchasing data finds US consumers going green.” GreenBiz. Assessed 27 March. http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/ 2011/04/19/amazons-purchasing-data-finds-us-consumers-going-green?page= 0%2C1

 

Ritch, Emma. 2009. “The environmental impact of Amazon’s Kindle.” San Francisco, California: The Cleantech Group.

 

Rosenthal, Morris. 2014. “Book Sales Statistics.” Foner Books. Assessed 27 March. http://www.fonerbooks.com/booksale.htm

 

Sopher, Taylor. 2014. “Amazon releases diversity numbers: 75% of managers male, 60% of US employees white.” Geek Wire. Accessed 27 March. http://www.geekwire.com/ 2014/amazon-releases-diversity-numbers/

 

Statista. 2014. “Amazon’s net income as of 4th quarter 2014.” Statista. Accessed 27 March. http://www.statista.com/statistics/276418/amazons-quarterly-net income/

 

Vidal, John. 2009. “Health risks of shipping pollution have been ‘underestimated’.” Guardian. Accessed 27 March. http://www.guardian.co.uk/ environment /2009/apr/09/ shipping-pollution

Categories: Uni Essays

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