Amazon is defending itself from the haters by talking up all the worthy things it is doing
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- Amazon has been the subject of a lot of condemnation of late, from groups including politicians, software developers, environmentalists, and more.
- So in its quarterly financial report, Amazon fought back and showcased a list of worthy projects with a social impact that it launched last quarter.
- The message appears clear: It wants people to feel good about spending so much money with the company, which on Thursday announced that it did $59.7 billion in revenue in the last quarter.
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Wall Street had expected a lot from Amazon's Q1 2019 earnings report, and Amazon delivered. It met lofty revenue expectations, smashed its profit numbers, and posted double-digit growth across most of its business units.
And yet, in the financial press release, did CEO Jeff Bezos tout a particular great selling product? A business strategy? Give a flowers quote praising his team for "execution?" Nope.
Here's what Bezos talked about in the earnings press release:
"The son of a working single mom, Leo Jean Baptiste grew up speaking Haitian Creole in a New Jersey home without internet access. He's also one of our inaugural group of 100 high school seniors to receive a $40,000 Amazon Future Engineer scholarship and Amazon internship."
Bezos went on to explain that Amazon's "passion for invention led us to create Amazon Future Engineer so we could help young people like Leo from underrepresented groups and underserved communities across the country."
This student is one of 100 who was awarded a scholarship - part of a bigger program with a $50 million budget -that funds computer science classes in 1,000 high schools, and that runs coding camps and after-school programs for kids.
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And then Amazon went on in the quarterly release to discuss:
- "Shipment Zero," a new goal to make customers shipments carbon neutral by 2030;
- Three new renewable energy projects for Amazon Web Services, its massively profitable cloud platform;
- A new $10 million commitment for research grants with the National Science Foundation focused on "fairness in Artificial Intelligence (AI);"
- An award this quarter by LinkedIn naming it a desirable company to work for;
- The release of Open Distro for Elasticsearch, one of Amazon's biggest open-source initiatives to date.
In comparison, in previous quarters Bezos praised the growth of Alexa, or Amazon Web Services (AWS), or some lesser-known success stories, like Amazon Business. Last quarter, at least, the company made no mention of its carbon footprint.
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Why the emphasis on social do-good in the last quarter?
Note that this is the first quarterly report after Amazon's New York HQ2 disaster, where the company pulled out of the agreement after facing protests, condemnation and some static from elected officials.
But there's probably more going on than just a gesture at New York. It's a gesture at Amazon critics all over over the place.
Amazon is a controversial company. It's fantastic for its customers, has a mixed reputation for how it treats its employees, and has an even murkier reputation over its role as a corporate citizen.
For instance, in the past quarter:
- Greenpeace accused the company of breaking its clean energy commitments. So in this report, Amazon delved into its ecological projects.
- AI researchers demanded Amazon stop selling its facial recognition to law enforcement after the ACLU raised concerns about the tech. So in this report, Amazon discussed its grants to make the tech better.
- The release of that same Open Distro for Elasticsearch caused controversy - while Amazon says that it did it in service to users, the original developer of Elasticsearch took the retailer to task over the project, playing into Amazon Web Services' larger reputation as being a poor partner to open source software.
This was the quarter that the company seemed to realize: low prices, free shipping and great technology may be enough to make Wall Street happy. But people want to feel good about where they spend their money, too.
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