As consumers, we interact with Amazon through the cloud. We make orders on Amazon's website and stream videos through Amazon Prime. Many other company and government websites, including Netflix and US government sites, are hosted by Amazon as well. It all seems so clean and efficient. But, the truth behind Amazon's cloud is disturbing, including polluting the planet and poor treatment of people.
A Dirty Cloud
“The cloud” is a physical network of many computer servers housed in warehouses all over the world. The servers in these data centers rely on massive amounts of energy to operate. This energy is generated by coal, natural gas, nuclear, or—in best-case scenarios—renewable energy like wind or solar.
Globally, temperatures, droughts, storms, and floods are increasing largely due to the burning of fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. While climate change can have widely varying implications depending on the region, it’s clear that the continued use of dirty energy—including by powerful cloud data centers—exacerbates the problem.
There are now more than 3 billion Internet users worldwide, with more than 7 billion predicted by 2020. Data usage is growing by more than 20% per year. A cloud powered by renewable energy is possible. It’s time to build a cleaner cloud.
Amazon Loves Coal
Amazon.com’s Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the single largest provider of cloud computing services, host to companies such as Netflix, Pinterest, the New York Times, and many more. However, in terms of renewable energy use, AWS lags behind almost every other company that operates data centers on a large scale. After years of consumer and investor pressure, AWS is only getting 50% of its energy from renewables.
AWS has disclosed virtually no useful information about its energy use and its impacts on the climate. Additionally, while the company has pledged to shift to 100% renewable energy, it has no plan or deadline to achieve this goal.
While companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google have committed to running on 100% renewables and are investing in facilities powered by renewable energy, Amazon continues to build data centers that run on coal or natural gas. And AWS has been marketing its services to the fossil fuel industry to boost oil and gas drilling, which will accelerate the climate crisis.
Demand for cloud computing is growing rapidly. Now is the time for AWS to build a greener, cleaner cloud—powered by renewable energy. Join us in taking action!
Workers Are Not Feeling the Love
While Amazon made $11 billion in profits in 2018 (for which they paid $0 in taxes), and Jeff Bezos nets $8,961,187 per hour, Amazon warehouse employees are only paid $15 per hour. And, when Amazon increased their pay to $15 an hour in 2018, they cut stock awards and incentive pay, which means some workers are earning less. Workers also complain of long hours and harsh conditions.
Employees overseas, who make Amazon electronics like Kindle and Alexa, likely fair much worse. Amazon provides minimal information about its overseas factories and any steps the company is taking to protect workers from chemical exposures and other hazards. In 2018, China Labor Watch published a report detailing extensive labor violations at Hengyang Foxconn, an Amazon supplier factory that manufactures Amazon Kindles and Echo Dots.
Read more about labor issues at Amazon here.
Our Demands of Amazon
Commit to increasing the share of renewable energy powering data centers to 100% by 2020, and cease the construction of new data centers that rely on coal-fired power.
AWS has stated that it has a long-term goal of using 100% renewable energy, but it has no plan or deadline to achieve this. Additionally, the company’s plans for growth include building more data centers in the eastern US region, where only 2% of power currently comes from renewable sources.
Submit complete and accurate data to the Carbon Disclosure Project.
The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) holds the largest collection of company-reported, climate impact data. AWS operates more data centers than any of its competitors, and its failure to submit data to the CDP means that few people outside of AWS know exactly how its operations affect the climate.
Issue an annual sustainability report following Global Reporting Initiative Guidelines.
That which is measured can improve. However, unlike most major corporations, Amazon.com/AWS currently issues no sustainability report, and therefore investors and the public have no way of knowing Amazon’s progress (or lack there of) on sustainability issues.
Take steps to protect workers in the US and abroad.
Amazon needs to provide better working conditions and pay in its warehouses, and needs to adopt and enforce standards for its overseas factories that ensure fair and safe working conditions.
Thanks to Green Americans taking action with us, since we launched our campaign, Amazon has reached 50% clean energy for its AWS servers, including announcing its largest new wind farm yet in Texas, a solar facility in Virginia, and wind farm in North Carolina!