In July 2021, Ethical Consumer viewed a page on Amazon Web Services' 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 website (5 July 2021)

In July 2021, 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 of the world.

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

Reference:

Amazon US website (5 July 2021)

In July 2021, 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.

Amazon stated "Employees may raise questions or report suspected violations of our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics through Amazon’s Ethics Line in over 20 languages. Calls to the Ethics Line are answered by an independent third party and may be made anonymously upon request."

However, it was not clear whether this applied to workers its supply chain - it appeared to just apply to its own employees. No mention could be found of the other criteria for this section. Overall the company was 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 corporate website sustainability section (5 July 2021)

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. The company therefore lost half a mark under Irresponsible Marketing.

Reference:

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

In July 2021, Ethical Consumer viewed Amazon’s SEC Filing SD form filed in 2020 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, as Amazon did, to have a policy addressing the issue.

Ethical Consumer expected companies to have a policy that committed 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. It provided a list of smelters and refiners, but stated: "Because many of the suppliers for our in-scope products that provided country of origin and facility information provided this information to us for their entire supply chain, without specifying which facilities contributed gold, tin, tungsten, or tantalum used in components of the in-scope products, we are unable to validate the accuracy of the list".

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:

From SD 2020 (5 July 2021)

In July 2021, Ethical Consumer viewed Amazon's website and found that it developed facial recognition technology.

According to a Reuters article Amazon had in May 2021 announced that it would extend its one year ban on US police forces from using its facial recognition, as rules for its ethical use had still not been put in place. The article also quoted Nathan Freed Wessler, a deputy project director at the American Civil Liberties Union, as saying:

"Face recognition technology fuels the over-policing of Black and Brown communities, and has already led to the false arrests and wrongful incarcerations of multiple Black men".

Campaigners such as digital rights group Fight for the Future considered that facial recognition technology posed a major threat to humanity and should be banned outright.

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 and facial recognition (May 2021)

In August 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed a report via the Business & Human Rights website, first published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in February 2020, entitled “Uyghurs for sale ‘Re-education’, forced labour and surveillance beyond Xinjiang”.

The findings of the report were summarized as follows: “The Chinese government has facilitated the mass transfer of Uyghur and other ethnic minority citizens from the far west region of Xinjiang to factories across the country. Under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour, Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen.

In all, ASPI’s research has identified 83 foreign and Chinese companies directly or indirectly benefiting from the use of Uyghur workers outside Xinjiang through potentially abusive labour transfer programs as recently as 2019”. Amazon was listed as one of these companies.

Business & Human Rights had contacted all of the companies named in the report and published their responses. Amazon responded, stating they do not tolerate the use of forced labour and had ‘taken immediate steps to investigate the Australian Strategic Policy Institute findings and to actively collaborate with industry partners, subject matter experts, governments and other relevant stakeholders to further enhance our due diligence efforts in line with Australian Strategic Policy Institute recommendations.’ 
As the company had not been able to refute the claims made or give full details of action to remedy the situation, the company lost half a mark under Human Rights.

Reference:

Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) report: Uyghurs for sale (3 December 2020)

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 said 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."

The company therefore lost a whole mark under Workers' Rights.

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 address 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 20th to 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)