While Jeff Bezos spends billions on his 'Earth Fund,' Amazon is reportedly monitoring climate change groups including Greta Thunberg's as potential threats

Isobel Asher Hamilton
Jeff Bezos
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Katherine Taylor/Reuters
  • Leaked documents obtained by Vice show how Amazon keeps a close eye on perceived threats to its business in Europe.

  • Among these threats are climate change activism groups including Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace, and Greta Thunberg's organization Fridays for Future.

  • The report is at odds with the public face Amazon shows on climate change. CEO Jeff Bezos has pledged to donate $10 billion to groups focused on the issue. 

  • "Like most companies, we have a team of analysts that help prepare for external events such as weather, power outages, or large community gatherings like concerts or demonstrations that could disrupt traffic or affect the safety and security of our buildings and the people who work at them," an Amazon spokeswoman told Vice.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos may be pouring billions into climate groups, but behind the scenes the tech giant considers some of them a threat.

Leaked documents obtained by Vice detailed the ways Amazon's Global Security Operations Center keeps track of organizations and movements it considers to be a potential threat to the company's operations.

Among the internal documents viewed by Vice were two reports from late 2019 that identified increasingly popular anti-climate change movements in Europe as a potential threat. The documents named Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace, and Greta Thunberg's group Fridays for Future.

Amazon noted Fridays for Future was increasing its influence "especially on young people and students" and "growing and attracting more and more people rapidly."

"Wow @amazon, are school children calling to protect the environment that much of a threat to you?" Fridays for Future tweeted in response to the report.

Greta Thunberg
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg protests during a "Fridays for Future" protest in front of the Swedish Parliament Riksdagen in Stockholm on October 9, 2020. JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images

According to the reports, Amazon monitored the social media accounts of these organizations to track their popularity and activity.

In a statement given to Vice, an Amazon spokeswoman said: "Like most companies, we have a team of analysts that help prepare for external events such as weather, power outages, or large community gatherings like concerts or demonstrations that could disrupt traffic or affect the safety and security of our buildings and the people who work at them."

The documents obtained by Vice showed how Amazon keeps tabs on unionization efforts in granular detail, and revealed that it employs the Pinkerton Agency, a spy company with a union-busting history stretching back to the nineteenth century.

The documents viewed by Vice were focused on Amazon's Europe operations, but Vice reports some documents suggested that Amazon deploys the same tactics globally.

Read more: Investors are serious about putting cash into climate tech in 2020. Check out the 25 most innovative startups tackling climate change in Europe, handpicked by VCs.

Vice's report is at odds with the public face Amazon shows on climate change. Its CEO and world's richest person Jeff Bezos announced in February that he's committing $10 billion to launch a new initiative called the "Bezos Earth Fund." Bezos provided an update on November 17, saying he's donated $791 million to 16 organizations so far.

Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion, and Fridays for Future did not feature on the list of beneficiaries.

Amazon has been under intense pressure both from outside groups and its own employees to take action against climate change. In January — the month before Bezos set up his Earth Fund — 350 Amazon employees signed an open letter condemning its climate policies. Greenpeace also accused the billionaire of hypocrisy for setting up his fund while simultaneously maintaining business contracts with the fossil fuel industry.

Amazon announced its climate pledge in September 2019, promising to become a carbon neutral company by 2040.

Business Insider has approached Amazon for comment.

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