Is Amazon ethical?
Our research highlights many ethical issues for Amazon, including climate change, environmental reporting, habitats & resources, pollutions and toxics, arms & military supply, human rights, worker's rights, supply chain management, irresponsible marketing, animal rights, animal testing, factory farming, use of controverial technologies, political activies, and anti-social finance.
Below we outline of some of these issues. To see the full detailed stories, and Amazon's overall ethical rating, please sign in or subscribe.
Amazon has faced criticism for far more than just its tax avoidance.
Labour Behind the Label’s 2019 UK report ‘Tailored Wages' report assessed whether leading clothing brands ensured that garment workers were paid a living wage. Where companies were graded from A to E where ‘A’ was the best and ‘E’ the worst, Amazon scored a grade E.
The report went on to say:
“Amazon has no policy on living wage and make no mention of wages being enough to cover workers’ basic needs in their supplier code. It is appalling that a market player of this size and influence has managed to take so little responsibility for human rights at its suppliers, and has taken such a hands-off approach to this vital issue.”
In June 2018 an article in the Seattle Times exposed the poor treatment of some of Amazon’s Chinese workers. It described how the Hengyang facility, “uses temporary and contract workers to an extent that violates Chinese law; employee time spent waiting to clock in and out is not compensated; overtime of up to 100 hours a month exceeds legal limits; and wages are well below average for the area, starting at a rate that is “not enough for workers to maintain a decent standard of living.”
In turn, as a spokesperson for Amazon, Melanie Janin stated that the company had issued a corrective action plan and regular monitoring. Ethical Consumer did not consider this a strong enough response due to the serious and systemic nature of the criticisms.
In 2018, multiple Guardian reports outlined issues with Amazon’s warehouses. One from July that year exposed cases of Amazon workers “being treated in ways that leave them homeless, unable to work or bereft of income after workplace accidents". This came alongside a claim that Amazon’s warehouses were on a list of most dangerous places to work in the United States in April 2018.
Another Guardian article from May 2018 stated that, "During the past three years at one Amazon site, ambulances were called 115 times” whilst a similar-sized supermarket warehouse nearby had only eight call-outs".
A GMB Union national officer painted a grim picture:
"Hundreds of ambulance call-outs, pregnant women telling us they are forced to stand for 10 hours a day, pick, stow, stretch and bend, pull heavy carts and walk miles – even miscarriages and pregnancy issues at work."
As a consequence of these findings, the company lost several marks under Workers' Rights.