Key highlights from Amazon’s 2020 letter to investors

on Apr 16, 2020
  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos prioritized discussing COVID-19 in a letter to shareholders.
  • Bezos is committed to getting the "economy back up and running."
  • Elswhere, Amazon remains committed to achieving long-term sustainability goals.

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As expected, the main focus of, Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) 2020 letter to shareholders is the COVID-19 pandemic and the responsibility that comes with it as a major e-commerce player.

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‘Working around the clock’

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Amazon’s team members are “working around the clock” to make sure its clients across the world are able to procure the supplies they need, CEO Jeff Bezos wrote. Given the sudden and unprecedented demand for essential household products, medical supplies, and other important items, the company prioritized these types of orders.

Customers can’t receive their items unless the workers behind the scenes remain safe. Bezos wrote Amazon has taken the necessary steps to protect everyone, including making sure employees can’t gather together in one spot.

‘Get the economy back up and running’

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Amazon plans on regularly testing all employees, including those with no symptoms. This would be crucial to not only making sure the company operates efficiently and keeps everyone safe, but “help get the economy back up and running.” To achieve this goal, Amazon tasked its research scientists and others with relevant expertise to build a lap and start testing “small numbers” of frontline workers soon. 

“We are not sure how far we will get in the relevant timeframe, but we think it’s worth trying, and we stand ready to share anything we learn,” Bezos wrote.

‘Drive our carbon footprint to zero’

Beyond COVID-19, Amazon remains committed to its long term goals of powering its business with 100% renewable energy by 2025 or 2030. So far, the company has 86 solar and wind projects with the capacity to generate more than 2,300 MW and generate upwards of 6.3 million MWh of energy annually.

The company’s ultimate goal is to “drive our carbon footprint to zero” — certainly a challenging objective as an e-commerce company that ships items in boxes. Scientists have spent more than three years working on the necessary tools to achieve its goals, including developing models, tools, and metrics to track any progress.

Tradition dictates: revisit 1997 letter

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Bezos ended his 2020 letter with an attached copy of the original letter to shareholders he penned in 1997. The first paragraph alone is truly telling of the impressive growth it achieved over just 23 years: “by year-end, we had served more than 1.5 million customers, yielding 838% revenue growth to $147.8 million.”
By comparison, net sales for 2020 rose 20% from 2019 to $232.9 billion. Amazon announced in 2018 it has more than 100 million Prime subscribers worldwide but never updated its figure. Some analysts estimate Amazon’s U.S. Prime membership to be 112 million at the end of 2019.

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