Amazon’s Hidden Liabilities

Like you, I use Amazon often and for an increasing number of things. 

As reported in today’s Wall Street Journal, Amazon’s growth and expansion into new markets is unparalleled… It’s efficiency in operations is also a sight to behold. With its technology powered by energy intensive 24/7/365 data centers, Amazon needs only half as many workers to sell $100 worth of merchandise as a conventional retailer, such as Macy’s does. 

And yet it pays almost no corporate tax because it is not profitable. Amazon’s lack of profit is not news, Amazon famously reinvests all operating income back into growth… However, Amazon also does not disclose how much carbon it produces to fuel this exceptional performance.

With its stock skyrocketing, there may be no pressure on Amazon from investors to disclose its carbon production. However, Walmart, Costco, Microsoft, Apple, Google and other major U.S. companies DO pay a lot of tax AND disclose the amount of carbon they produce… 

For instance, Walmart in addition to disclosing its carbon production, the company (with a market cap of $237.5 billion) has paid over $64 billion in corporate tax… while Amazon (with a market cap of $458.8 billion) has paid only $1.4 billion. Yes, Amazon is creating jobs, but Walmart employs 2,200,000 people while Amazon employs 350,000.

Carbon disclosure through the Carbon Disclosure Project makes large firms accountable both to themselves and to us, the people, without whom these companies could not survive. 

Needham & Co., a Wall Street research firm, projects that Amazon’s share of e-commerce sales may grow from 34% today to over 50% by 2020… Unless the U.S. economy grows 25% in 3 years, where will that growth come from? It will come from companies like Walmart… Leading many economists to believe that Amazon will ultimately kill many more jobs than it creates

The combination of unchecked carbon production and massive unemployment liabilities are two criteria that need to be factored into how Americans think about Amazon and its growth… These are slow, creeping, almost imperceptible economic factors that are mostly ignored by us because Amazon helps make us perform better… As such exemplary consumers. 

But who will ultimately bear the hidden liabilities of Amazon’s growth?