Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said Thursday that mass testing around the world for the coronavirus is needed to “get the economy back up and running.”
In his annual shareholder letter, Bezos also pointed to efforts Amazon has taken to protect its employees from the pandemic.
Bezos pointed to Amazon’s efforts to develop “incremental testing capacity,” which the company announced last week. As part of that announcement, Amazon said it hopes to begin testing all of its employees, including those who show no symptoms.
“Regular testing on a global scale, across all industries, would both help keep people safe and help get the economy back up and running,” Bezos said. “For this to work, we as a society would need vastly more testing capacity than is currently available.”
Bezos detailed other steps Amazon has taken to curb the coronavirus, such as providing employees with face masks and distributing temperature checks for warehouse workers, delivery drivers and Whole Foods employees. He added that Amazon temporarily closed some of its physical stores, including Amazon Books, Amazon 4-star and Amazon Pop Up stores as they don’t sell essential products, and offered those store employees roles in other parts of the company.
Despite the new safety measures, Amazon workers from at least three facilities have staged protests to call for the company to close facilities where there are positive cases of the virus. A dozen workers told CNBC they felt Amazon needed to provide employees with paid time off, among other concerns.
Amazon’s logistics and delivery systems have been under some strain since the pandemic worsened across the globe. Due to a surge in online orders, the company was forced to prioritize shipments of essential goods at its fulfillment centers, resulting in longer delivery times and a rare disruption to its typical two-day and one-day delivery windows.
Bezos said unlike the typical holiday shopping season, the surge over the last few months “occurred with little warning, creating major challenges for our suppliers and delivery network.” For that reason and others, Bezos added that his “own time and thinking” continues to be focused on the coronavirus.
“I am extremely grateful to my fellow Amazonians for all the grit and ingenuity they are showing as we move through this,” Bezos said. “You can count on all of us to look beyond the immediate crisis for insights and lessons and how to apply them going forward.”
Amazon had 798,000 full-time and part-time employees as of Dec. 31 and has hired more than 100,000 new employees since March to deal with coronavirus demands and plans to add 75,000 more jobs.
You can read the letter in full below:
Although these are incredibly difficult times, they are an important reminder that what we do as a company can make a big difference in people’s lives. Customers count on us to be there, and we are fortunate to be able to help. With our scale and ability to innovate quickly, Amazon can make a positive impact and be an organizing force for progress.
Last year, we co-founded The Climate Pledge with Christiana Figueres, the UN’s former climate change chief and founder of Global Optimism, and became the first signatory to the pledge. The pledge commits Amazon to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement 10 years early-and be net zero carbon by 2040. Amazon faces significant challenges in achieving this goal because we don’t just move information around-we have extensive physical infrastructure and deliver more than 10 billion items worldwide a year. And we believe if Amazon can get to net zero carbon ten years early, any company can-and we want to work together with all companies to make it a reality.
To that end, we are recruiting other companies to sign The Climate Pledge. Signatories agree to measure and report greenhouse gas emissions regularly, implement decarbonization strategies in line with the Paris Agreement, and achieve net zero annual carbon emissions by 2040. (We’ll be announcing new signatories soon.)
We plan to meet the pledge, in part, by purchasing 100,000 electric delivery vans from Rivian-a Michigan-based producer of electric vehicles. Amazon aims to have 10,000 of Rivian’s new electric vans on the road as early as 2022, and all 100,000 vehicles on the road by 2030. That’s good for the environment, but the promise is even greater. This type of investment sends a signal to the marketplace to start inventing and developing new technologies that large, global companies need to transition to a low-carbon economy.
We’ve also committed to reaching 80% renewable energy by 2024 and 100% renewable energy by 2030. (The team is actually pushing to get to 100% by 2025 and has a challenging but credible plan to pull that off.) Globally, Amazon has 86 solar and wind projects that have the capacity to generate over 2,300 MW and deliver more than 6.3 million MWh of energy annually—enough to power more than 580,000 U.S. homes.
We’ve made tremendous progress cutting packaging waste. More than a decade ago, we created the Frustration-Free Packaging program to encourage manufacturers to package their products in easy-to-open, 100% recyclable packaging that is ready to ship to customers without the need for an additional shipping box. Since 2008, this program has saved more than 810,000 tons of packaging material and eliminated the use of 1.4 billion shipping boxes.
We are making these significant investments to drive our carbon footprint to zero despite the fact that shopping online is already inherently more carbon efficient than going to the store. Amazon’s sustainability scientists have spent more than three years developing the models, tools, and metrics to measure our carbon footprint. Their detailed analysis has found that shopping online consistently generates less carbon than driving to a store, since a single delivery van trip can take approximately 100 roundtrip car journeys off the road on average. Our scientists developed a model to compare the carbon intensity of ordering Whole Foods Market groceries online versus driving to your nearest Whole Foods Market store. The study found that, averaged across all basket sizes, online grocery deliveries generate 43% lower carbon emissions per item compared to shopping in stores. Smaller basket sizes generate even greater carbon savings.
AWS is also inherently more efficient than the traditional in-house data center. That’s primarily due to two things—higher utilization, and the fact that our servers and facilities are more efficient than what most companies can achieve running their own data centers. Typical single-company data centers operate at roughly 18% server utilization. They need that excess capacity to handle large usage spikes. AWS benefits from multi-tenant usage patterns and operates at far higher server utilization rates. In addition, AWS has been successful in increasing the energy efficiency of its facilities and equipment, for instance by using more efficient evaporative cooling in certain data centers instead of traditional air conditioning. A study by 451 Research found that AWS’s infrastructure is 3.6 times more energy efficient than the median U.S. enterprise data center surveyed. Along with our use of renewable energy, these factors enable AWS to do the same tasks as traditional data centers with an 88% lower carbon footprint. And don’t think we’re not going to get those last 12 points-we’ll make AWS 100% carbon free through more investments in renewable energy projects.
Over the last decade, no company has created more jobs than Amazon. Amazon directly employs 840,000 workers worldwide, including over 590,000 in the U.S., 115,000 in Europe, and 95,000 in Asia. In total, Amazon directly and indirectly supports 2 million jobs in the U.S., including 680,000-plus jobs created by Amazon’s investments in areas like construction, logistics, and professional services, plus another 830,000 jobs created by small and medium-sized businesses selling on Amazon. Globally, we support nearly 4 million jobs. We are especially proud of the fact that many of these are entry-level jobs that give people their first opportunity to participate in the workforce.
And Amazon’s jobs come with an industry-leading $15 minimum wage and comprehensive benefits. More than 40 million Americans—many making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour-earn less than the lowest-paid Amazon associate. When we raised our starting minimum wage to $15 an hour in 2018, it had an immediate and meaningful impact on the hundreds of thousands of people working in our fulfillment centers. We want other big employers to join us by raising their own minimum pay rates, and we continue to lobby for a $15 federal minimum wage.
We want to improve workers’ lives beyond pay. Amazon provides every full-time employee with health insurance, a 401(k) plan, 20 weeks paid maternity leave, and other benefits. These are the same benefits that Amazon’s most senior executives receive. And with our rapidly changing economy, we see more clearly than ever the need for workers to evolve their skills continually to keep up with technology. That’s why we’re spending $700 million to provide more than 100,000 Amazonians access to training programs, at their places of work, in high-demand fields such as healthcare, cloud computing, and machine learning. Since 2012, we have offered Career Choice, a pre-paid tuition program for fulfillment center associates looking to move into high- demand occupations. Amazon pays up to 95% of tuition and fees toward a certificate or diploma in qualified fields of study, leading to enhanced employment opportunities in high-demand jobs. Since its launch, more than 25,000 Amazonians have received training for in-demand occupations.
To ensure that future generations have the skills they need to thrive in a technology-driven economy, we started a program last year called Amazon Future Engineer, which is designed to educate and train low-income and disadvantaged young people to pursue careers in computer science. We have an ambitious goal: to help hundreds of thousands of students each year learn computer science and coding. Amazon Future Engineer currently funds Introduction to Computer Science and AP Computer Science classes for more than 2,000 schools in underserved communities across the country. Each year, Amazon Future Engineer also gives 100 four-year, $40,000 college scholarships to computer science students from low-income backgrounds. Those scholarship recipients also receive guaranteed, paid internships at Amazon after their first year of college. Our program in the UK funds 120 engineering apprenticeships and helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds pursue technology careers.
For now, my own time and thinking continues to be focused on COVID-19 and how Amazon can help while we’re in the middle of it. I am extremely grateful to my fellow Amazonians for all the grit and ingenuity they are showing as we move through this. You can count on all of us to look beyond the immediate crisis for insights and lessons and how to apply them going forward.
I’d rather live with a good question than a bad answer.