[Issue 067] Bezos can keep his $2B 🙅🏾


What I love most about writing this newsletter is how much I learn on a regular basis. Many of you may not know, but corporate responsibility is in no way a part of my day job in tech, so I spend a lot of my free time reading anything and everything in order to stay informed and stretch my thinking. 

One of the books I picked up this weekend is called Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.


The basic premise: We now live in a world with more inequality than ever, but what's particularly problematic is that it's a world "where the rich and powerful fight for equality and justice any way they can–except ways that threaten the social order and their position atop it."

Before starting this newsletter I would've likely read news of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' $2 billion to fight homelessness (as well as support education) in Seattle as exciting news.

Instead, I can clearly see it for what it is: The wealthiest man in the world—with assets of $163 billion, might I remind you—is throwing pennies at a problem that his company is largely the root of.

This tweet from the author perfectly sums it up:

I'm not sure there's a better "billionaire sugar daddy" example right now than Bezos, who can keep his damn $2 billion.*

This summer Amazon fought a local business tax that would fund homeless shelters and low-income housing (and won). The tax was originally proposed at $500 per employee for any business making $200+ million in revenue.

When Amazon threatened to not build any more office space, the city reduced the tax to $275. At this point Starbucks and other businesses teamed up with Amazon to get the tax repealed.

At $275, the tax would've only cost Amazon $12.5 million in 2019, and the company made $1.6 billion in profit in the first quarter of 2018 alone. 

And we haven't even gotten into:

  • The ways in which Amazon contributes to the growing inequality and recent state of emergencyfor homelessness in Seattle

  • How much Amazon benefits from tax breaks in cities (the HQ2 frenzy, as the most glaring example) all while crushing the local businesses that do pay local taxes

  • The company's problematic employment practices and how that impacts the communitiesthey operate in across the US


So really, what good is Bezos' $2B? It pales in comparison to the cost communities and society as a whole is paying for him to accrue that wealth.

The next time you read a headline about some rich CEO giving away money and getting a pat on the back about it, ask yourself: are they really trying to change the world for the better?


*I don't actually want Bezos to keep the $2B. There are  people in need, so I don't take the donation lightly. My point is that as the CEO of the most powerful company in Seattle he needs to do better, and writing a check just doesn't cut it.


I was SO excited to see Arlan Hamilton on the cover of this month's Fast Company! If this is the first time hearing that name, I doubt it will the last. She is the founder of Backstage Capital, a venture capital firm that solely funds startups run by women, people of color, and LGTBQ founders. I've been following her journey closely for a while, and I'm constantly inspired by her tenacity and success.

This quote from the Fast Company article sums it up pretty well:
"In an industry where privilege begets privilege—and at a time when racial justice in this country seems precarious, at best—she is claiming her seat at the table."⁣

Here's the Fast Company article → Memo to the Silicon Valley boys’ club: Arlan Hamilton has no time for your BS

Read more about her incredible story here → How This Woman Went From Homelessness to Running a Multimillion-Dollar Venture Fund


Will Others Follow Microsoft on Paid Parental Leave.
Microsoft has begun requiring that even the suppliers they work with give their own workers 12 weeks of paid parental leave. In 2015, Microsoft began requiring that their suppliers’ employees had 15 days of paid vacation or paid sick leave annually. // WIRED

Blind Grocery Shoppers Access 'Second Set Of Eyes' Through App. Aira, an app designed to help visually impaired people, has begun a partnership with grocery chain Wegmans in an effort to assist Wegman’s visually impaired customers. The app connects the user to a real, live assistant who can see video feed from out of both the front and back camera of your phone, allowing them to tell you the options and locations of whatever the customer may need. // NPR

Amazon Delivery Drivers Reveal Claims of Disturbing Work Conditions. A recent interview of 31 former or current Amazon delivery drivers by Business Insider revealed claims of missing wages, lack of overtime pay, and intense pressure to sacrifice personal safety in pursuit of faster delivery times. This article shares some of the interviews with the Amazon delivery drivers. // BUSINESS INSIDER

Supermarket chain Morrisons faces equal pay claims worth 1 billion pounds. Women who worked for the supermarket chain Morrisons’ are reporting that they were paid less than their male colleagues in the chain’s distribution centers. Morrison's could pay up to 1 billion pounds, distributed amongst 80,000 employees who are eligible for the claims. // REUTERS

Woke Business: Have Big Brands Found A Conscience or a Just Marketing Ploy. This article is about current brands who are taking political stances, usually directed by the values of a CEO. It discusses how this is important, because modern consumers want their brands to have identities and values, and to be socially responsible and sustainable. However, some are questioning if companies are abusing this relationship to use politics as a simple marketing tool, i.e, the Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner, which end up causing more harm than good. // GUARDIAN

How Companies Can Ensure Maternity Leave Doesn’t Hurt Women’s Careers. Harvard Business Review conducted a study amongst 300 women in the U.K about their experiences returning my maternity leave. The findings showed that many women find it hard to catch up, and that their clients or responsibilities had been transferred to someone else. However, women at companies who have better benefits and culture surrounding maternity leave had a much easier time coming back to the workplace, and we're much more productive. // HBR

Ikea Sets Goal for Zero Emissions Delivery in 5 Cities by 2020. Ikea is working to offer zero emission home delivery in five major cities Amsterdam, Los Angeles, New York City, Paris, and Shanghai by 2020, in order to take the environmental impact off of transporting their furniture. They have have started working with electric vehicles and other green forms of transportation. // FORTUNE

Airbnb May Be Its Own Worst Enemy. Airbnb has compromised with local cities on limits focused on rentals in past years, however now they are fighting against the limits. Airbnb has been battling with New York over how much the city can police Airbnb rentals, and they have also been pushing a lot of money into removing the limits as well. If Airbnb gets its way, it may be harder for locals to find long-term, available housing. // BLOOMBERG

Nikita T. Mitchell