Amazon.com Inc. employees are expected to operate based on a longstanding code of 14 corporate values. On Thursday, just days before founder Jeff Bezos is set to exit as chief executive officer, the company altered the list by adding two more bullet points.
The new “Leadership Principles”—“Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer,” and “Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility” —require employees to take into account the well-being of their coworkers and society beyond the company’s walls when making decisions. They also address persistent criticisms of the company as a bruising workplace and inconsiderate corporate citizen.
The first new principle builds on a pledge Bezos made earlier this year in his final letter to shareholders as CEO, a call to make the company a better place to work and create value for workers, not just customers. It followed reports of high injury rates at Amazon warehouses, a fiercely contested union drive at an Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama, and a year of unrest in the company’s warehouses as some workers complained that management saw them as expendable during the pandemic.
“Leaders work every day to create a safer, more productive, higher performing, more diverse and more just work environment,” the principle reads, in part. “They lead with empathy, have fun at work and make it easy for others to have fun.”
The second addresses a longtime criticism of the Seattle-based company, that in a meteoric rise predicated on Bezos’s pledge to satisfy shoppers, Amazon has at times given short shrift to other constituencies, including communities where its employees live and to the environment.
“We are big, we impact the world and we are far from perfect,” the second new principle says, in part. “We must be humble and thoughtful about even the secondary effects of our actions. Our local communities, planet and future generations need us to be better every day.”
The largest online retailer’s set of principles has served as a sort of cheat sheet for employees, designed to push them to satisfy customers, grow the business and stave off the complacency that can follow success. Employees are hired and evaluated by how they conform to the principles, and the list is perhaps Amazon’s biggest contribution to management science, a codification of Bezos’s thinking.
Bezos plans to hand leadership of the company to longtime deputy Andy Jassy on Monday.