Amazon faces activism, rising tide of ‘environmental justice’


She said shareholder support has shifted since early measures submitted by Trillium, which oversees $2.8 billion in assets, asked companies to consider their impacts on communities. That includes an effort around facilities in Louisiana’s “cancer alley,” where a high concentration of petrochemical plants has been linked to cancer cases in Black and poor communities.

“Investors are playing a larger role and supporting some of these efforts when they didn’t a decade plus ago,” Baker said.

Environmental justice activists have opposed toxic waste sites and landfills in communities of color and poorer areas. They’ve also objected to the placement of facilities that increase air pollution or, in the case of petrochemical plants, have been linked to high rates of cancer and other diseases in surrounding communities.

“If we don’t address all of the things that got us here, then we’re just going to end up in the same place,” Maren Costa, a user experience designer and early member of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, or AECJ, an organization of workers pressing the company to take action on the environment, said in an interview. “Because of the systems in place, we have been able to dump our pollution on to certain communities: Black and brown, low-income, Global South. That’s the only way that we’ve gotten into this situation in the first place.”

More than jobs

Amazon’s choices on where to build facilities, which the company once touted for bringing jobs to these areas, is now generating opposition from employees and community activists. The company announced its 14th fulfillment center in California’s Inland Empire in 2018, saying the move would bring 1,000 more jobs to the area where Amazon pays workers a $15 per hour minimum wage. The company is reportedly the largest private employer in the region east of Los Angeles.

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