Jeff Bezos signs off with aplomb

In his final letter to shareholders as CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos looked back on the achievements during his tenure, laid out visions on multiple fronts for the company, and defended its track record in labour relations.

In keeping with his annual pattern, Jeff Bezos penned a letter to Amazon’s shareholders. What’s different from the past is this is the last time he will address the shareholders in his capacity as Amazon’s CEO.

Bezos is a proud man with plenty to be proud of. In 2020 alone, Amazon made $21.3 billion net profit for its shareholders, grew Prime subscriber base by 50 million to reach 200 million in total, and hired 500,000 new people to take the total number of direct employees to 1.3 million. Alexa is connecting over 100 million smart homes, and AWS alone reached an annualised run rate of $50 billion by the end of 2020.

While these number are in their own right nothing short of phenomenal, Bezos preferred to talk more about how much value the company has created for its customers, including consumers (calculated by the time Amazon saves them from travelling to brick-and-mortar shops), retailers selling on Amazon marketplace, and AWS customers (using bottom end conservative estimates), and its employees (payment and benefit), on top of shareholder value. By Bezos’s own calculation, Amazon created over $300 billion value add in total in 2020:

Shareholders      $21B

Employees          $91B

3P Sellers            $25B

Customers           $164B

Total                    $301B

Labour relations have been a thorn in Amazon’s side, and Bezos goes at length to defend the company’s track record in supporting its employees, from raising minimum wage to $15 per hour (and its effect on local economies and other employers) to employee wellbeing support. At this point Bezos lays out Amazon’s next ambition to become Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work while still firmly focused on being Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company. All three targets are far cries from Amazon’s early “humble” aspiration to become “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore”.

Another thing that makes Bezos proud is the momentum gathering of The Climate Pledge that Amazon launched in 2019, which aims to mobilise the corporate world to achieve carbon-neutral as fast as possible. By now, 53 of the world’s largest companies have signed up to the pledge, committing to make their global business carbon neutral by 2040, that is 10 years ahead of the Paris Accord target. Amazon itself aims to reach the target already in 2025. One of its key measures is the large-scale deployment of electric vehicles for logistics. Both Amazon as a company and Bezos as an individual have also made significant investments in clean energy technologies.

Bezos is a good writer. He opened the letter by quoting a couple who bought two shares of the the “new book-selling company” in 1997 and how that decision had benefited their family 24 years later. He concluded the letter by quoting a passage from “The Blind Watchmaker” by the evolutionary biologist and educator Richard Dawkins. “If living things didn’t work actively to prevent it, they would eventually merge into their surroundings, and cease to exist as autonomous beings. That is what happens when they die,” wrote Dawkins. Bezos uses this message as a rallying cry to his team to remain distinct and refuse to become normal after his own days as CEO come to an end.

One comment

  1. Avatar Pete pifer 17/04/2021 @ 2:46 pm

    I wonder how many times Jeff Bezos heard” that’ll never work” and kept going in spite of it.
    He is the Great American dream.
    Pete Pifer
    ETI Software

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