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Moral Questions Have Little to Do with Amazon Stock

Will Ashworth

I didn’t intend to discuss Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos’ morality or lack thereof when I caught the ecommerce company assignment. However, one of my most recent articles discussed the very same thing only Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) was the topic du jour.

I looked at whether Facebook was morally bankrupt and how it might affect FB stock. I concluded that people are morally bankrupt, not companies. From that perspective, the fact that Amazon employees are upset about its involvement with the oil industry, I just had to assess the possible damage to Amazon stock.

Amazon Stock and Jeff Bezos’ Troubles

More than 5,200 Amazon employees signed a letter addressed to CEO Jeff Bezos and the board April 10 that appeared in Medium. It highlighted their concerns about the company’s cozy relationship with the oil industry.

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The letter from the employee group, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, pushed for the company to adopt an aggressive plan to tackle climate change:

“Amazon has the resources and scale to spark the world’s imagination and redefine what is possible and necessary to address the climate crisis. We believe this is a historic opportunity for Amazon to stand with employees and signal to the world that we’re ready to be a climate leader,”

It goes on to suggest that the company’s Amazon Web Services (AWS) business has an oil & gas initiative that helps companies like BP (NYSE:BP) and Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A) accelerate the speed at which they extract oil from the ground. The group believes that fossil fuels should remain in the ground.

It proposes Amazon adopt six specific principles to address the global climate crisis.

At the very least, these large employee cohort believes the company should not be in bed with Big Oil.

“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.

Jeff Bezos’ recent and very public difficulties regarding his now open relationship with former news anchor Lauren Sanchez should have been a tipoff to investors that the world’s richest person might not be super worried about morality.

It’s likely he won’t care what his employees think about AWS’ involvement with BP and Shell and the rest of the oil & gas industry. If he did, he wouldn’t have let Andy Jassy, the head of AWS, speak at CERAWeek in Houston.


Morality and Amazon Stock

Full disclosure: I’m not religious. I do believe there’s a spiritual power in the world and know the difference between right or wrong but feel investors have no business in the bedrooms of America. Bezos can do what he darn well pleases. It’s not going to affect my life one bit.

However, a person like Mike Pence, who’s religious to the point of alienating the entire LGBTQ community in the great state of Indiana, is likely to have a problem with Bezos’ actions while married to another woman.

It’s said he wouldn’t have dinner alone with any woman who isn’t his wife. I guess Mom’s out of the question. The question of Bezos’ morality is a lot dicier because it depends on your perspective.

Jeff Bezos is one of the most brilliant people on the planet. It’s hard to imagine that he doesn’t know the difference from wrong or right. He does, or he wouldn’t have been so amicable in his divorce proceedings.

It’s possible that he sees the company’s work with the oil & gas industry as a job-saving technique. Faster extraction of oil means lower costs, higher profits, more jobs.

On the flip side, he has to know fossil fuels are on their way out. Maybe not in his lifetime, but sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Amazon has many stakeholders. Bezos is beholden to all of them. I don’t think he’ll move on the employees’ call to action simply because they have spoken out. Like every decision he makes, I’m sure it involves a lot of reflection.

Those are the hallmarks of a thoughtful person, not someone who’s amoral or immoral.

The Bottom Line on Amazon Stock

As the richest person in the world, Bezos attracts a lot of attention, something to which most of us can’t relate.

Therefore, I don’t think any inaction on the part of the company on the climate front will hurt Amazon stock in the near term. However, if the company continues to mistreat a segment of its employees by overworking and underpaying them, that has the possibility of destroying shareholder value.

Do I think the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice should give up their cause?

Hell no.

That said, I don’t believe Amazon stock will be affected whether Jeff Bezos is proven to be any of the above. 

At the time of this writing Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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