In May 2020, Ethical Consumer searched Amazon's US website and found that it listed stun guns, pepper sprays and knuckle dusters. None of these items were listed on the company's UK website, nor could they be shipped to the UK. A policy was found prohibiting the sale of knuckledusters and other items in the UK, but no such policy could be found for the US or the rest fo the world.

Amazon lost a mark under Arms & Military Supply for the sale of weapons.

Reference:

https://www.amazon.com/ (13 August 2018)

In May 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed a page on AWS' website entitled 'Cloud Computing for Defense', which advertised the company's products and services for military applications.

The page included case studies on how the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency and U.S. Navy used AWS in their operations.

As a result, the company lost half a mark under the Arms & Military Supply category.

Reference:

aws.amazon.com (2020)

In May 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed Amazon’s website for information on how the company managed workers' rights in its supply chain. The following documents were viewed to inform this rating: Amazon Supply Chain Standards, Amazon Supply Chain Standards, Modern Day Slavery Statement (UK) and a webpage entitled ‘Responsible Sourcing’.

1 SUPPLY CHAIN POLICY (Rudimentary)

Amazon’s Supplier Code of Conduct contained adequate clauses covering the following: child labour, forced labour, discrimination and freedom of association. The company's policy on wages was found to be inadequate because it only required the payment of legal minimum wages, not living wages. The policy on working hours was also found to be inadequate because it allowed working weeks of above 60 hours in "special or emergency situations". The policy was stated to apply to the company’s entire supply chain: “Amazon expects all products sold in the Amazon Store or provided to Amazon to be manufactured or produced in accordance with this Supplier Code of Conduct (“Supplier Code”).”

Overall, Amazon’s Supply Chain Policy was considered to be rudimentary.

2. STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT (Poor)

Ethical Consumer deemed it necessary for companies to demonstrate stakeholder engagement, such as through membership of the Ethical Trade Initiative, Fair Labour Association or Social Accountability International. Companies were also expected to engage with Trade Unions, NGOs and/or not-for-profit organisations which could systematically verify the company's supply chain audits, and for workers to have access to an anonymous complaints system, free of charge and in their own language.

No evidence was found that Amazon met any of the above criteria. The company was therefore considered to have a poor approach to stakeholder engagement.

3 AUDITING AND REPORTING (Poor)

Ethical Consumer deemed it necessary for companies to have an auditing and reporting system. Results of audits should be publicly reported and quantitatively analysed. No evidence was found that Amazon had publicly reported results of supply chain audits.
No evidence was found of a publicly available scheduled and transparent audit plan.
Amazon’s Supply Chain Standards Manual contained the following statement: “All suppliers must submit an Amazon-approved audit of their facilities before beginning production of Amazon-branded products”. However, no information was found pertaining to whether or not Amazon was committed to carrying out audits of any second-tier suppliers.
Amazon’s Supply Chain Standards Manual included details of the company’s use of ‘Corrective Action Plans’ for remediation. This included a staged approach to dealing with violations.
No information was found pertaining to who paid for the costs of audits.

Having met only one of the five criteria, Amazon was considered to have a poor approach to Auditing and Reporting.

Difficult issues (Poor)

Ethical Consumer also deemed it necessary for companies to address other difficult issues in their supply chains. This would include ongoing training for agents, or rewards for suppliers, or preference for long term suppliers. It would also include acknowledgement of audit fraud and unannounced audits, and measures taken to address the issue of living wages, particularly among outworkers, and illegal freedom of association.
No information was found covering the above issues. Amazon was therefore considered to have a poor approach to difficult issues.

Overall, Amazon received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for Supply Chain Management and lost a whole mark in this category.

Reference:

amazon.com (2020)

The Independent reported on 17th August 2015 that a petition had been launched urging Amazon to stop selling books written by a controversial blogger who had called for rape committed in a private place to be legalised.

The anti-feminist blogger Daryush Valizadeh, or ‘Roosh V’, allegedly shared tips on how to ‘pick-up' women on his website, (such as “stop asking for permission”), and in his self-published books, which gave advice on how to have more sex with women in different countries.

One of Valizadeh’s blog posts in February was widely condemned for advocating the legalisation of rape in order to force women to take responsibility for their security and events “that are easily preventable”. It also claimed women should be made responsible for ensuring they were not raped, instead of teaching men not to rape.

By the publication date of the article almost 5,000 people had signed a Change.org petition urging Amazon to pull the “rape books” from the site, which were described as a “thinly veiled” guide to getting away with sexual assault.

The petition referred to "His books, known as the “Bang” series".

When searched in June 2020, "Bang" books were still for sale on Amazon.com

Reference:

Roosh V: Amazon hit by petition to stop selling books from 'pick-up' blogger who called for rape to

In May 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed Amazon’s SEC Filing SD form filed in May 2019 for details of the company’s policy on conflict minerals. The eastern portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has long been the centre of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. The revenue from the illegal mining and trading of the DRC's natural resources has been exploited to fund armed conflicts, and serious human rights abuses are connected to those conflicts and to the mines for certain ores. The ores are identified as conflict minerals and the metals that were derived from them (namely, tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold) exist in many consumer products including electronics. Ethical Consumer expected all companies manufacturing electronics to have a policy addressing the issue.

Ethical Consumer expected companies to have a policy that commited to conflict free sourcing, while continuing to source from the DRC region. Amazon’s report stated:
“We are committed to avoiding the use of minerals that have fueled conflict, and we expect our suppliers to support our efforts to identify the origin of gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum used in products that we manufacture or contract to manufacture."

However, no evidence was found of a commitment to continuing to source from the DRC region.

Amazon was a member of the Responsible Minerals Initiative

As Amazon had not fulfilled the essential criterion of having a stated commitment to continuing to source from the DRC region, it received Ethical Consumer’s Worst Rating for Conflict Minerals and lost full marks under the Human Rights and Habitats and Resources categories.

Reference:

Form SD (May 2019)

In June 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed Amazon's website and found it that developed facial recognition technology.

Amazon had recently announced that it would stop US police forces from using its facial recognition, nevertheless Ethical Consumer considered that facial recogntion technology was insufficiently regulated and posed a major threat to civil liberties when used for surveillance purposes.

On the use of facial recognition for surveillance, UK campaign group Big Brother Watch stated: “Live facial recognition in public spaces is a mass surveillance method and a huge expansion of the surveillance state. It inverts the vital democratic principle of suspicion preceding surveillance, treating populations like suspects.”

The company lost half a mark under the Human Rights category.

Reference:

amazon.com (2020)

In July 2019, Ethical Consumer viewed an article on The Guardian website dated to the 15th July 2019 and titled: 'Prime Day: activists protest against Amazon in cities across US'.

The article stated: "Activists, immigrants and Amazon employees demonstrated against the e-commerce giant on its annual Prime Day, protesting against its labor practices and its involvement with US authorities’ deportation efforts.

"Activists say Amazon should not be profiting off the yearly sale event while its workers struggle for better work conditions and its technology is being used to deport immigrants.

"Protesters delivered to Jeff Bezos’s home in Manhattan on Monday 250,000 petitions calling on Amazon to cut ties with government agencies responsible for deportation... Amazon Web Services hosts Department of Homeland Security databases that allow the department and its agencies to track and apprehend immigrants. The company is also in talks to expand a partnership to host new DHS biometric databases that store more extensive data, including eye color, tattoos and other identifiers.

"In addition to the immigration-related protests against Amazon, warehouse workers plan to walk out of the company’s fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minnesota, for six hours on Monday to demand better working conditions."

A further Google search found that in June, workers at the company also sent Jeff Bezos a letter asking him to stop selling the company’s Rekognition facial recognition software to law enforcement. The group, going under the strap-line ‘We Won’t Build It’, highlighted the US Authorities’ zero-tolerance approach at its boarders, which has resulted in thousands of children being separated from their parents.

Prime Day protests in seven US cities also highlighted the company’s poor treatment of workers. Those on strike in Minnesota criticised the company for unrealistic productivity quotas, safety concerns, and the job insecurity for temporary workers, according to an article published by Forbes titled 'Amazon Prime Day Protests By Workers Demonstrate Continued Tension Inside The E-Commerce Goliath' and dated to 9 July 2019.

GMB Union members in Doncaster similarly protested on Prime Day against “unsafe” and “appalling” working conditions at the company’s warehouse, an article on The Guardian website titled 'Union stages final protest over 'horrific' Amazon work practices' and dated to 22 July 2019.

The company lost half a mark under Human Rights and Workers' Rights.

Reference:

Prime Day: activists protest against Amazon in cities across US (15 July 2019)

In January 2016 Amazon was fined by the US Department of Labour for failing to report injuries in one of its warehouses.

A citation issued by the federal safety regulators says the online retailer failed to report at least 26 work-related illnesses and injuries at a New Jersey warehouse in 2015.

The fine came after a multi-month inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Amazon did not report workplace injuries and did not supply protective equipment to workers, who were exposed to dangers including amputation.

The company was fined $7,000.

A spokesperson for Amazon, told US news network CBS, "We take safety very seriously, we do not agree with the findings and will be contesting the citation".

OSHA said Amazon workers were exposed to "risk factors including stress from repeated bending at the waist and repeated exertions, and standing during entire shifts up to 10 hours, four days a week and sometimes including mandatory overtime shifts. Also, the on-site medical unit provided medical care beyond what was allowed by their licensing and certification, without the supervision of a board certified qualified medical professional licensed to practice independently."

Reference:

osha-slaps-amazon-for-not-reporting-job-injuries/ (13 January 2016)

In a report released in June 2020, Know The Chain evaluated the efforts of 49 global Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies to forced
labor and human trafficking in their supply chains. The companies represented the largest in the sector.

Companies were assessed against the following criteria: Commitment & Governance (the highest scoring theme); Traceability & Risk Assessment; Purchasing Practices; Recruitment; Worker Voice; Monitoring; Remedy. The report provided good practices examples and recommendations, evaluated corporate commitments and compliance with relevant regulations, and set out recommendations for investor action.

Industry-average scores out of 100 were given for each criterion, as well as a final average for each company across all criteria. The average score of the companies benchmarked in both 2018 and 2020 had dropped slightly, from 32/100 to 31/100.

Five companies achieved an overall score of 68 and above, with more than three-quarters scoring less than 50/100.

Amazon received a score of 43, which ranked 14 out of 49 in the benchmark.

The company's scores under each criterion were:
Commitment & Governance 62
Traceability & Risk Assessment 88
Purchasing Practices 22
Recruitment 36
Worker Voice 12
Monitoring 40
Remedy 44

Know the Chain summarised their findings about Amazon as follows:

“Compared to 2018, the company’s rank improved from 20thto 14th. This is because the company has disclosed a supplier list and data on its supply chain workforce, stronger engagement with peer companies, and processes that address recruitment fees. It also assesses forced labor risks at potential suppliers and across its supply chains. KnowTheChain identified one allegation of forced labor in the company’s supply chains.”

On areas for improvement, it stated: “The company has an opportunity to improve on the themes of Purchasing Practices, Worker Voice, and Remedy.”

Amazon had an overall score of below 50/100, and so lost a full mark in the Workers’ Rights category.

Reference:

KnowTheChain ICT Benchmark Findings Report - 2020 (June 2020)

In July 2018 The Guardian reported, "workers left to suffer after warehouse injuries".
It stated that, "Guardian investigation reveals numerous cases of Amazon workers being treated in ways that leave them homeless, unable to work or bereft of income after workplace accidents".
"Amazon’s warehouses were listed on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s “dirty dozen” list of most dangerous places to work in the United States in April 2018."
"In many cases, Amazon workers are left to deal with the temp agency that hired them, shifting the burden of responsibility to a third party and making it more difficult for workers to receive proper treatment and compensation. "
Another Guardian article in May 2018, at www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/31/amazon-accused-of-treating-uk-…, stated that, "During the past three years at one Amazon site, ambulances were called 115 times. A similar-sized supermarket warehouse nearby had only eight call-outs".
A GMB Union national officer said, "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."
The company lost a half mark under Worker's Rights.

Reference:

Amazon injuries (July 2018)