On Thursday, Jeff Bezos published his final letter to shareholders as CEO of Amazon.
Throughout the course of the 22-minute read, the richest person in the world offered fascinating insight into the trillion-dollar company he founded in a Seattle garage; the wealthy share-owners who bought seven-eighths of the company’s stock; the 1.3 million workers who toil to build the company’s fortune; and the enigmatic psyche of the man himself.
In particular, Bezos dedicates a core part of the letter space to Amazon’s mission to become “Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work,” after the company was caught in a storm of negative commentary about what critics called abusive labor practices in recent weeks.
“If you read some of the news reports, you might think we have no care for employees,” Bezos writes. “In those reports, our employees are sometimes accused of being desperate souls and treated as robots. That’s not accurate.”
In an effort to improve working conditions for employees, he says, Amazon is engineering a sophisticated, artificial intelligence-powered staffing system that aims to reduce workplace injuries. According to the letter, “about 40% of work-related injuries at Amazon are related to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), things like sprains or strains that can be caused by repetitive motions,” which are common in warehouse work and shipping and delivery. The system’s new algorithms would rotate employees among jobs that use different muscle-tendon groups, to decrease repetitive motion and help shield employees from MSD risks.
In 2021, Bezos adds, Amazon will invest $66 million into developing technology to prevent collisions of forklifts and other types of industrial vehicles.
With that, Bezos, who will remain executive chairman of the company after stepping down from his CEO role later this year, appears to be digging for solutions by returning to his roots: “I’m an inventor. It’s what I enjoy the most and what I do best,” he writes in his letter.
In 2020, Amazon’s annual revenue totaled $386 billion, and its net profit skyrocketed 84% year-over-year amid a shopping boom caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
You can read the full letter here.