3 Big Takeaways From Jeff Bezos’ Final Shareholder Letter as Amazon CEO

Earth’s most customer-centric company has a new employee-centric goal

Over the last 24 years, Bezos' shareholder letters have become an annual event.
Adweek; Leigh Vogel/Getty Images, Amazon

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos published his 24th and final letter to shareholders on April 15, revealing some new stats and sharing his thoughts on the platform’s reputation as an employer in the wake of the unionization drive in Alabama.

The Amazon blog gives the letter an estimated 22-minute read time, including Bezos’ original letter from 1997. In case that’s too much of a commitment, here are the highlights:

A Prime member update—and other stats

Perhaps most notably, Bezos revealed Amazon now has 200 million Prime members. That’s up from the 150 million members he announced just 15 months ago.

These shoppers don’t spend much time on Amazon, however—at least not to buy stuff. Bezos said customers complete 28% of purchases in three minutes or less, and half of all Amazon transactions are completed in less than 15 minutes.

Other noteworthy stats from the letter:

  • The ecommerce giant brought on 500,000 employees last year for a total of 1.3 million. These employees had base pay totaling $80 billion, plus $11 billion in benefits “and various payroll taxes.”
  • Nearly 2 million small- and medium-sized businesses sell on Amazon, and their goods account for almost 60% of Amazon sales. That’s either equivalent to or up slightly from 2018, when third-party sellers were responsible for 58% of overall sales (and were kicking Amazon’s “first-party butt”).
  • Finally, net income for Amazon was $21.3 billion in 2020 while Bezos estimated third-party seller profits were between $25 and $39 billion.

‘The Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work’

Bezos devoted a portion of his letter to comment on the recent unionization vote in Bessemer, Ala., noting, “We need to do a better job for our employees,” including what he called “a better vision for how we create value for employees.”

He denied reports employees are treated like robots and pointed to internal data that shows 94% of fulfillment center employees “would recommend Amazon to a friend as a place to work.”

And while he did not comment directly on recently resurfaced reports staffers have to pee in bottles, Bezos wrote, “Employees are able to take informal breaks throughout their shifts to stretch, get water, use the rest room, or talk to a manager, all without impacting their performance.”

Nevertheless, Bezos said he is committing the “Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company” to also become the “Earth’s Best Employer” and “Earth’s Safest Place to Work.” In his role as executive chair, which he will assume in Q3, Bezos said he will put on his inventor hat to focus on “new initiatives,” like on-the-job safety issues.

Climate pledge progress

Bezos also provided an update on Amazon’s climate pledge, which the platform announced in September 2019. Since then, 53 companies—including Best Buy, IBM, Infosys, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft, Siemens and Verizon—have committed to reaching net-zero carbon by 2040. Bezos noted Amazon is “making progress toward our own goal of 100% renewable energy by 2025, five years ahead of our initial 2030 target.”

That presumably includes integrating electric delivery vehicles from Rivian, which were on the road in Los Angeles as of February 2021. Bezos said 10,000 of these vehicles will be delivering Amazon packages “as early as next year” with 100,000 to follow by 2030.

“The economy in 2030 will need to be vastly different from what it is today and Amazon plans to be at the heart of the change,” Bezos said of the platform’s role in helping “drive this positive revolution.”

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