Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos tackled a wide range of topics in his final letter to shareholders before he passes the CEO baton to Andy Jassy, current head of the Amazon Web Services division, later this year.
In addition to discussing the recent failed unionization vote in Bessemer, Ala., climate change and how the company can continue to innovate, Bezos started the letter by touting some big stats:
- Amazon Prime members now number 200 million worldwide. That’s 50 million more than in 2019;
- More than 1.9 million small- and medium-sized businesses sell on Amazon, making up close to 60% of the company’s retail sales; and
- Customers complete 28% of purchases on Amazon in three minutes or less, and half of all purchases are finished in less than 15 minutes.
“In Amazon’s 1997 letter to shareholders, our first, I talked about our hope to create an ‘enduring franchise,’ one that would reinvent what it means to serve customers by unlocking the internet’s power,” said Bezos in the letter. “I noted that Amazon had grown from having 158 employees to 614, and that we had surpassed 1.5 million customer accounts.”
As Bezos noted, the company has come a long in the 24 intervening years, having hired 500,000 employees last year alone and now directly employing 1.3 million people around the world. Amazon is now the world’s second-largest U.S. based employer after Walmart. Amazon’s role as an employer has been under intense scrutiny recently due to the highly publicized unionization effort at a fulfillment center in Bessemer, Ala. this year. Although the vote came out against unionization, Bezos said he wasn’t happy with the outcome.
“Despite what we’ve accomplished, it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for our employees’ success,” said Bezos. “We have always wanted to be Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company. We won’t change that. It’s what got us here. But I am committing us to an addition. We are going to be Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work.”
Bezos cited the fact that 94% of fulfillment center employees say they would recommend Amazon to a friend as a place to work and defended the company’s “achievable performance goals” and break schedules, highlighting the company’s early adoption of a $15 hourly minimum wage.
“We’re also proud of the fact that Amazon is a company that does more than just create jobs for computer scientists and people with advanced degrees,” he said. “We create jobs for people who never got that advantage.”
Bezos also talked about the company’s ongoing focus on climate impact, including continuing to work toward its goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2025, moving toward electric vehicles across its transportation fleet and investing in new technologies.
“Smart action on climate change will not only stop bad things from happening, it will also make our economy more efficient, help drive technological change, and reduce risks,” he said. “The coming decade will be decisive. The economy in 2030 will need to be vastly different from what it is today, and Amazon plans to be at the heart of the change.”
Bezos concluded his letter with a last piece of advice to “all Amazonians”: “We all know that distinctiveness — originality — is valuable. What I’m really asking you to do is to embrace and be realistic about how much energy it takes to maintain that distinctiveness. The world wants you to be typical — in a thousand ways, it pulls at you. Don’t let it happen. You have to pay a price for your distinctiveness, and it’s worth it. The world will always try to make Amazon more typical — to bring us into equilibrium with our environment. It will take continuous effort, but we can and must be better than that.”