(NEW YORK) — Amazon is getting cozy with the oil industry — and some employees aren’t happy about it.
The online shopping giant, which already works with BP and Shell, has been trying to woo more oil and gas companies to use its technology to help them find drillable oil faster, angering workers who have been pushing Amazon to do more to combat climate change.
The employees say the company should drop its work with industry entirely, arguing that it shouldn’t contribute to hurting the environment. Workers at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters have been meeting regularly, spreading the word and encouraging more involvement to put pressure on the company.
The issue came to a boil on Wednesday, when workers publicly published a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos that was signed by more than 4,000 Amazon employees.
“Amazon absolutely should not be helping oil and gas companies extract oil from the ground,” said Emily Cunningham, a user experience designer at the company who is part of a group of employees who have pushed Amazon to reduce its carbon emissions.
Amazon, which hooked shoppers on getting just about anything delivered in two days, is likely to already have a massive carbon footprint. The very foundation of its business model is dependent on fossil fuels to power the planes, trucks and vans that ship its packages all over the world.
The company is now courting oil producers to Amazon Web Services, which offers cloud computing services to government agencies and major companies, such as video-streaming service Netflix and digital scrapbooking site Pinterest. AWS is one of Amazon’s biggest money makers, accounting for more than 70% of Amazon’s total profit last year.
It’s unclear how big of a business oil and gas companies are for AWS; BP and Shell have been clients for several years. But it seems Amazon has stepped up its courting of the industry recently.
Andy Jassy, who runs AWS, spoke at last month’s oil and gas conference CERAWeek in Houston for the first time. Amazon was also one of the sponsors of the event, which brings together executives from some of the top oil and gas producers around the world. At one of Jassy’s discussions, he explained how Shell was using Amazon’s machine learning technology to figure out which wells would produce the most oil before drilling.
“That’s a real game-changer,” he said at the conference.
Questions sent to Amazon about its ties to the oil industry were not answered. Instead, AWS spokesman Jason Kello sent a link to its sustainability website, which said the company uses solar and wind power to some of its data centers.
Erik Gordon, a professor who follows Amazon at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, said ditching an entire industry as a client would seem unlikely, and could lead to more employees trying to tell Amazon which companie