The importance of avoiding Amazon this festive season (and all year round, in fact!)


There are lots of different places to buy gifts all year round but when important holidays come up, the in store and online retailers get busier and busier. One online retailer, Amazon, may be your port of call as they are incredibly quick and most of the time super cheaper, but there are some dark secrets that Amazon is hiding… and the cheapness and speediness does actually come at a high cost. So, what’s so bad about Amazon?

Exploitation of workers

Amazon has been in the news recently for its exploitation of workers and continued opposition to union groups, thousands of Amazon workers went on strike to protest against the inhumane working conditions they have had to put up with. Research has found that Amazon warehouses have double the injury rate than the industry average. The delivery drivers don’t have it any better, with very unrealistic delivery targets as well as extremely long hours, many report mental health issues including depression and anxiety as a result of working there in stressful conditions. A recent report has found that workers are put under so much pressure to work fast that many of them don’t even have time to go to the toilet. Out of fear of not being quick enough and losing their job, some employees pee in bottles as the nearest toilet is down four flights of stairs and they simply don’t have time to go as they are under so much pressure to hit certain targets. Many don’t drink water because of this and become extremely dehydrated. Some workers have also reported that they have been punished for taking time off due to sickness, one worker had a day off sick because of a gastric bug, and despite the fact they had a note from the doctor they were still given a strike.

Low wages:

Despite the fact that Amazon is owned by the richest man in the world, and whose net worth has skyrocketed to $200 billion during the pandemic, Amazon is very high up on the list of employers with a large number of warehouse employees are forced to use food stamps. In just one day of the pandemic, Jeff Bezos who owns Amazon earned an increase of £10 billion, and he is likely to be the first trillionaire by 2026. Amazon makes a staggering profit, but the financial resources are distributed very unfairly, and wages remain very low for the employees and have only been raised when workers have worked together to demand a pay rise.

Bio surveillance

Amazon now makes use of bio-surveillance, using advanced AI cameras - the employee’s location, movements and even facial expressions are tracked. People that work here had two choices when the new rule was implemented: consent to their biometric data being taken or lose their income. What would you choose? In most countries monitoring employees like this is legal in some circumstances but certain criteria must be met, for Amazon though these rules often don’t apply with their aggressive human rights policy avoidance.

Waste and environmental destruction

An investigation by ITV News has recently revealed that Amazon destroys millions of items of unsold stock every year, products that are often new and unused. Jeff Bezos has donated $10 billion to fight climate change, this may seem a lot of money but compared to his $200 billion net worth this is absolutely not sufficient. To put it in perspective, if Jeff Bezos spent $1 million every day, it would take him 548 years to spend all of it. Amazon is a significant emitter of greenhouse gasses, in 2020 (the same year they announced a goal to be carbon neutral by 2040) emissions grew by 19%. A report from Oceana found that in 2019 Amazon generated 210 million kilograms of plastic waste, this is the equivalent of 17,500 double decker buses. Holidays like Christmas further add to this issue, more products are bought which increases pollution and waste.

Tax avoidance

Amazon has built its entire profit strategy around tax avoidance – it’s the reason they have ended up so successful in the first place. Tax avoidance has a devastating impact on wealth redistribution and means that there is less wealth to go around those who are most vulnerable and marginalised. Some calculations suggest that Amazon should have paid about $20.4 billion more than it has in tax.

So, what are the alternatives?

To this I offer an alternative, when buying your presents this year think sustainable and think local. When possible, support a local business, this reduces pollution and packaging, not to mention helping entrepreneurs and local people in your community. If you’re buying baby toys or body care products, research the product to find out if it is biodegradable and look out for greenwashing. With the increasing awareness of the climate crisis there has also been an increase in greenwashing: when a company conveys an image of being environmentally sustainable which is in contradiction to their largely unsustainable and environmentally damaging practices. So, with all of this in mind let’s all try to consume more consciously this festive season so that we are not fuelling exploitative and inhumane corporations such as Amazon.