Worker Activism Brings New Model Challenges

Amazon employee for climate justice

A contribution to Medium from Amazon Employees for Climate Justice shares more than 350 statements from employees who focus on the company's climate practices. The release comes weeks after accusations that Amazon has threatened some employees with dismissal for violating press and media guidelines for employees and creating a public feud between management and an alliance of affected employees.

Back in September, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced an initiative aimed at making the brand a CO2-free company by 2040. The day after the announcement, many Amazon employees took part in the student climate marches that took place worldwide, but a A group of employees believes Amazon isn't doing enough.

Justin Wang, a software engineer, says, “I work with incredible people on Amazon every day on great projects, but knowing that Amazon works with the oil and gas industry despite its climate promise is a burden. We have to be climate leaders, not delays. "

In an email statement from Amazon, a spokesman said: “All employees are welcome to constructively engage with one of the many teams within Amazon that deal with sustainability and other issues. However, we enforce our external communication guidelines and do not publicly disparage or misrepresent employees or the hard work of their colleagues who are developing solutions to these difficult problems. "

This is only the latest in a series of major technology brand events where employee activism has challenged internal brand and communication teams. Google withdrew from a U.S. Department of Defense drone program and decided not to bid to build cloud services for the Pentagon after workers raised concerns about submitting bids for military contracts. This $ 10 billion contract was won by Microsoft. Microsoft and SalesForce employees put pressure on executives to understand how their businesses deal with U.S. immigration and customs officials.

Tolerance, transparency and trust

We live in strange times. We know that there are problems like climate, immigration, weapons and inequality that our governments have not dealt with so well. We want to see action from brands that improve (or at least not aggravate) the areas that are important to us. However, the problems of our time are extremely complex. Trying to force leadership to quit loyal customers by associating them with seemingly unfavorable activities is not intuitive for any employee who wants to grow with the brand.

A strong employee branding program can help. Provision of internal mechanisms for collecting feedback and using live or videocast town halls, in which managers and experts can answer questions live. Include a way to track progress and set a frequency of communication so that groups know that action is being taken even if the action is not performed at the speed they want. It is also time to rethink employee communication policies. Make known what is tolerated and what is not.

This is an area where strong leadership presence can make a difference. Microsoft has done an excellent job here. Both the CEO and the Chief Legal Counsel have written and lectured on the company's position on technology and ethics. When Nadella was faced with the request to terminate contracts with ICE, she reacted quickly and clearly to the employees.

But brands don't have to be afraid to enforce guidelines. The promise of Amazon can be admired in any case. If this does not happen quickly enough for employees, they should feel empowered to work elsewhere.

The Blake project can help: Please send us an email for more information on purpose, mission, vision and values, as well as workshops on brand culture.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service from The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy that specializes in brand research, brand strategy, brand licensing and brand building

Free publications and resources for marketers