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Shopping without Amazon

Amazon is well-known for its tax avoidance, workers’ rights abuses and monopolistic behaviour. 

Here, we introduce our Amazon alternatives series, outlining more ethical options. We also explain the background to our Amazon boycott and why we launched it in 2012. 

In 2020, Amazon made sales worth €44bn in Europe. Yet, the company paid no corporation tax, including in the UK. This is despite seeing a huge surge in business during the coronavirus pandemic (35% of all online purchases made in the UK during the first lockdown were through Amazon), and at a time when the need for funding of public services like the NHS is clearer than ever before. 

Our new research has calculated that, in 2021, up to half a billion pounds (£500,000,000) could have been lost to the UK public purse from the corporation tax avoidance of Amazon alone.

In other research Ethical Consumer found that Amazon secured more than £20 million of income from UK universities in 2021 alone, and that higher education has become more reliant on Amazon in the past three years, with 63% of universities increasing their purchasing with the company.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s monopolistic behaviour threatens small businesses trying to do better. Our guides below include more ethical options, so you can ensure you’re not supporting this arch tax avoider, while channelling your money to more ethical companies. 

Buying Books

As part of our Boycott Amazon campaign, we look at how we can challenge the retail Goliath when buying books. There are plenty of ethical choices in the market, from secondhand charity shops to online booksellers doing things differently.

Buy Books without Amazon

Buying Online

As part of our Boycott Amazon campaign, we look at 24 ethical online retailers. We check out what they are selling - from clothes and body care, to cleaning products and gifts. 

Buying Online without Amazon

Tablets & e-readers

Finding alternatives to Amazon in the markets it dominates, such as e-readers, can be tough. But other brands are out there. For e-readers, we found the Kobo e-reader which scored a  middle rating whilst the Amazon Kindle scored 0.

When it comes to tablets, the iPad dominates with over half of all sales of tablets in the UK. The iPad scores a whole 8 points more than Amazon's Kindle Fire.

Guide to Tablets & e-readers

Clothes Shops

Amazon sells a range of clothing on its website. Amazon has only signed up to a few initiatives designed to improve workers' rights and was rated to be the 'least engaged' in sustainable fashion and labour market initiatives in a 2019 UK Government report.

See our guide to high street clothes shops as well as our guide to ethical clothes shops featuring lots of independent and innovative companies.

Guide to Clothes Shops

Why boycott Amazon?

There are numerous reasons for boycotting Amazon - from firing employees for calling out its unsafe conditions to offering services to fossil fuel giants. The billion dollar company scores a spectacular 0 out of 20 in our ratings, and comes at the bottom of all our tables where they feature. (See below for a full list of guides that feature Amazon).

Our boycott focuses on its staggering tax avoidance, which remains unaddressed despite Amazon’s commitment to make a change to its practices in 2015. Despite ongoing business growth in recent years, Amazon’s UK tax has barely increased, and it is accused of continuing to book its UK sales in Luxembourg, a known tax haven. As Paul Monaghan from Fair Tax Mark says:

“Amazon is growing its market domination across the globe on the back of income that is largely untaxed, allowing it to unfairly undercut local businesses that take a more responsible approach. Contrived financial arrangements lie at the heart of Amazon’s success.”

The tax avoidance of Amazon and other companies costs US$245 billion globally a year. The impact is disproportionately felt by poorer countries, and new research suggests a link between increased death rates and loss of income through tax. Clearly global action against tax avoiders like Amazon is needed.

Watch our video with top 3 reasons to boycott amazon: tax avoidance, building monopolies and denying workers' rights.

Background to the Amazon Boycott

We began our boycott campaign against Amazon in December 2012. The call was made as part of our wider campaign to tackle tax avoidance, which also included a fledgeling version of what would become the Fair Tax Mark

Since then, we’ve seen multiple campaigns against the corporation globally. Not only have we been joined by Fair Tax Mark, Tax Justice Network and others in condemning the company’s tax record; we’ve seen workers, unions, anti-racism organisations, anti-gentrification movements and others raise voices against Amazon globally. 

Employees have held widespread protests and strikes, including against its poor climate policies. Unions have spoken out on the company’s violations of union rights, as well as its poor treatment of workers. And MEPs have questioned the company over evidence that it is spying on unions and workers.

In November 2020, a global coalition launched demanding that the company address its workers’, environmental and political abuses. #MakeAmazonPay has brought together unions, campaigners, and civil society organisations, including Ethical Consumer. 

Growing demands for fair tax

After years of widespread campaigning, the global consensus on tax has also begun to shift. In June 2021, the G7 group of countries agreed a landmark global tax rate, meaning that companies will have to pay at least 15% tax in any country where they operate, and 20% tax on profits over 10%. The agreement is a major step towards global action on tax avoidance - but now more than ever we need to keep up the pressure for change. 

The G7 agreement only includes 7 countries, with major tax havens like Ireland and Switzerland not on the list. Many details are left to be decided - which will majorly impact the revenue actual raised by changes - at wider negotiations being conducted amongst 139 countries at the OECD in Paris. 

Meanwhile Gabriela Bucher, Oxfam’s executive director, has pointed out that the 15% rate would benefit G7 states, but is too low to benefit poorer countries.

"It's absurd for the G7 to claim it is 'overhauling' a broken global tax system by setting up a global minimum corporate tax rate that is similar to the soft rates charged by tax havens like Ireland, Switzerland and Singapore. They are setting the bar so low that companies can just step over it."

Indeed, it’s unclear whether some of the new tax measures would even capture Amazon’s billions of dollars in sales. The second agreement focuses on taxation over 10% profit: however, Amazon shifts its profit through time as well as space, booking a loss in many places while multiplying its monopoly and share value, meaning that it may not come under new rules that focus on profit.

Consumer and other campaign pressure is needed to ensure that companies address their own tax avoidance; that global tax rates benefit poorer countries too; and that global tax rules don’t leave loopholes for Amazon to exploit. 

Finding alternatives to Amazon using our guides

Click on the links below to find ethical alternatives to Amazon.