Environmental, social and tax impunity. Immersion into the Amazon model

Massive tax evasion, development of fully automated warehouses, deliveries (made) by drones, meals provided in less than 30 minutes, employees under surveillance, face recognition, destruction of unsold items... The world according to Amazon, the first stock market capitalisation on a global scale, seems to be inspired by science fiction. Yet it is a reality which gets more concrete day by day.

Executive summary

Amazon was able to acquire this invasive and omnipotent position by freeing itself from a series of rules and laws. Jeff Bezos, the multi-billionaire at the head of the company, managed to build its supremacy on complete disregard for the most basic standards and regulations.

In this report, Attac France, Les Amis de la Terre and the trade union Solidaires show, with supporting figures and data, the environmental, socal and tax impunity that Amazon has been enjoying for too many years. This study provides a series of indicators that shed light on the ecological and economic impact on local communities. Finally, it highlights a series of unlawful practices by the transnational corporation : from the blackmailing of elected officials about employment to the gentrification in extensive neighbourhoods of Seattle.

In particular, this report shows that :

  • According to our estimates, Amazon conceals some 57% of what it earns in France every yearand relocates a large part of its profits in tax havens, which means massive tax avoidance.
    This of course has a negative impact on the tax revenues of the states where Amazon operates, but this massive use of tax havens also reinforces Amazon’s dominant market position vis-à-vis its smaller competitors which pay more taxes in proportion to their business activity.
  • The world according to Amazon is not sustainable : according to our calculations, Amazon Web Services emitted 55.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2018 - in other words, the equivalent of Portugal’s emissions ; the company’s policies cause considerable waste : 3 million new products were destroyed by Amazon in France in 2018.
  • Amazon is expanding its presence in France by primarily employing people with short-term contracts, especially temporary workers, who are run off their feet and turned into nervous wrecks in huge warehouses. If we measure Amazon’s net impact on employment in the United States, where the company has been in business for a longer period of time, it appears that for every job created by Amazon, 2 jobs are lost.

But because Amazon’s progress is not unstoppable, this report also presents several inspiring struggles, which, all over the world, against the multinational’s misdeeds, with a few victories to their credit.

Our demands :

On the basis of this report, we demand that Amazon :

  • on the social front : respect labour law, comply with the collective bargaining agreement for trade and distribution and include temporary workers into its stable workforce ;
  • on the ecological front : significantly reduce its impact and be forced to reduce the bids on the textile and electronic products market ;
  • in terms of taxation : be transparent about financial flows and relationships between its subsidiaries, and pay its fair share of taxes.

International and national regulations are therefore essential to put an end to the systemic impunity enjoyed by transnational corporations.

In order to ensure environmental, social and tax justice, our organisations collectively make 10 demands with regard to Amazon :

  1. Maintaining of the implementation of the collective bargaining agreement on trade and distribution for Amazon employees.
  2. Compliance with labour law in terms of payroll, sick leave and work accidents processing time.
  3. Incorporation of all temporary workers into Amazon’s workforce and the end of subcontracting.
  4. Gradual reduction in sales of new products - particularly textiles and electronics - in order to halve emissions from the entire Amazon model by 2030, from product manufacturing to delivery, in line with the IPCC’s recommendations.
  5. Reduction of the climate-related impact of transport by decreasing journeys, switching all service providers to less polluting modes, starting with the immediate halt to the transport of goods by air and the free return of products.
  6. Reduction of the climate impact of data centers, through the gradual decrease of stored data and the 100% supply from renewable energy.
  7. Introduction of « public reporting country by country », i.e. the requirement for transnational companies to provide information about their activity public in each country, which in turn makes it possible to tax them accordingly.
  8. Establishment of a tax system based on the joint taxation of transnational companies, so that Amazon pays its « fair share » of taxes.
  9. Finalisation and implementation of a binding international treaty to regulate the action of transnational corporations and to compel them to disclose information on the environmental and human rights issues and risks of their activities, as well as the relevant measures they have taken to address them.
  10. For the time being, to stop Amazon’s expansion and the worsening of its ecological, social and economic impact on local communities, we are calling for a halt to the construction of new warehouses in France until the measures ensuring compliance with the Paris Agreement have been taken and a job impact assessment has been carried out.