Beginning at 04:00 GMT on Friday 26 November, referred to by companies as Black Friday, Extinction Rebellion have blockaded the entrances to 13 Amazon distribution sites. The first warehouse targeted by the climate activist group was the Dunfermline, Fife location, the largest in the UK. HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicles) have been prevented from entering, and in some cases leaving the warehouses.
This large-scale protest is to draw attention to Amazon's treatment of its workforce which has, in recent years, come under fire from a number of activists and workers' rights organisations. Additionally, Extinction Rebellion has cited the mega-corporation's "environmentally destructive and wasteful business practices" as a prime factor in their decision to disrupt the company's flow of goods on the biggest day for retail this year.
The action against Amazon has taken place in Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. Sites at Dunfermline, Doncaster, Darlington, Newcastle upon Tyne, Manchester, Peterborough, Derby, Coventry, Rugeley, Dartford, Bristol, Tilbury, and Milton Keynes have all been targeted.
Members of the climate group set up structures made of bamboo to block several entrances to Amazon warehouses (referred to by Amazon as fulfilment centres) across the UK and abroad. These structures can be rapidly constructed and in places such as Rugeley have had protesters sitting atop them. Banners, lock-ons, and other common techniques used by Extinction Rebellion have also been reported. Police have been called to each protest, with four individuals being arrested so far.
“Exploitation of workers and the planet is why we’re in the climate crisis in the first place, sacrificing everything on the altar of profit. We're not going to solve it without justice for workers.” Mrs Peyton Jones, a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion, informed STV news.
Amazon has previously said that they take climate change "very seriously", and that they intend to work towards net zero emissions by the year 2040. However, the company has seen nothing but rises in its emissions during recent years, with a 19% increase going from 2019 to 2020. Furthermore, green policies such as their Climate Pledge Friendly badge have been criticised as greenwashing.
The badges are given to products in order to show the people buying it that it has passed the climate-friendly checks made by third-party organisations like Fairtrade. However, the badge can be applied to any product that has Compact Design Verification, a new assessment devised by Amazon itself. Essentially, if a product's packaging has taken steps to be more sustainable, the product itself is given the Climate Pledge Friendly badge. Customers are able to find the distinction once they click on the product's additional information, but the badge next to the product's name is always the same.
Extinction Rebellion promises to continue the protests for 48 hours, although police intervention has already shut down a number of demonstrations.