Opinion

Bezos steps down: evaluating Amazon’s future

The impact and influence of Amazon – whether you see it as negative or positive – is undeniable. The company has unparalleled scope as one of the biggest multinational tech companies and is always expanding, establishing themselves in different sectors such as Amazon Music, Prime Video, Echo and countless other services. In the UK alone, Amazon has a workforce of 27,000 employees (2) along with others working for Amazon through a third-party contract. With Jeff Bezos announcing he would step down as CEO of Amazon in the second half of 2021 to become Executive Chairman, what will the future bring and will criticism of Amazon ever truly challenge the powerful company?

Jeff Bezos continues to be lauded as an entrepreneurial icon, tech visionary, and the face of Amazon, most notably for his staggering net worth of $151 billion that places him as one of the richest people in the world. Indeed, there are lessons that one can learn from his economic success and leadership. His experience is diverse, from his initial studies of Physics and Computer Science at Princeton to working on Wall Street. Some of his leadership qualities are often shared in handwritten shareholder letters where Bezos talks about his plans and philosophies on successfully managing a business. The rising stock price of Amazon by almost 50% within the last 12 months could be hailed as one of his successes too. Despite being in the middle of a pandemic, Amazon is one of the few companies making profit, due to their high number of online sales and fast delivery service. However, I believe that Amazon’s success story ultimately stands on the shoulders of its employees, who are pushed to achieve daily targets in the hopes of a contract extension. These are only awarded to the few who consistently hit the high targets and a large proportion of Amazon employees are hired from agencies on a temporary contract.

The ethics of Amazon and Bezos as a result of such policies have faced scrutiny. On the other hand, Amazon does pay its workers more than the average minimum wage, which is one of the highest compared to market rates for unskilled workers which in my opinion motivates its labour. Yet, while commercially profitable as it attracts new employees and helps reach the extortionate target expectations, the treatment of workers is still up for debate. In the past, employees reported the immense pressure of working in Amazon warehouses. Particularly in the UK where the wellbeing of staff has been neglected and meeting targets has been proven difficult with limited breaks and working 12-hour shifts. In the latest controversy, Amazon has been accused of stealing flex drivers tips in the US, the part-time drivers are hired to deliver packages according to order demand. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) claimed that Amazon lied to customers emphasizing that tips are 100% received by drivers. However, after disagreeing with some claims, Amazon decided to settle the allegations. This is not the first or last time that Amazon faces similar allegations of malpractice as the company has a history of neglecting the wellbeing of its employees. But the truth from my standpoint is that Amazon as a company is essential to driving the global economy as a transnational corporation (TNC) and does provide a great number of jobs. The problem seems to be much bigger than Amazon now, and I would argue that the employee ecosystem is what Amazon owes its success (and criticisms) too.

It is self-evident that the Amazon retail sector is vital for the consumerist society we live in. There is a large number of customers including myself who are content with Amazon’s services as it is quick, efficient, saves time and effort. This facility created its market of customers that have no other choice but to rely on Amazon’s fast service in times of need such as ‘next-day delivery. Other projects like Amazon Kindle, Echo, Fire TV, are also beneficial for society as they push for innovation and AI technology. Moreover, in recent years they have developed plans to delve into the aero-transportation service by introducing their own cargo airline for trading Amazon products. By 2021, at least 70 cargo aircrafts will be operating by Amazon Air. Thus, the future of Amazon appears to be ever-evolving and full of complexities – marred by frequent controversies but also praised for innovation just as regularly. Personally, Bezos stepping down will not stop the shift of Amazon’s focus or assuage critics. It seems this complex is also vital to the relationship is vital for the growth of Amazon. 

Overall, in my judgement, the future of Amazon remains bright, at least (for those at the top of the company’s structure and management). Amazon continues to shape our society and grow with consumerism habits. Meeting demands may prove difficult at times, but the legacy that Bezos has set up demonstrates successful management of overcoming challenges. This success brought various criticisms on labour treatment as higher demands means increasing pressure on the workforce. Perhaps this ethos of consistency will create a new and innovative advancement for the future global economy.