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In his first letter to shareholders in 1997, Jeff Bezos shared his bold vision for the then still small company: a relentless focus on customers and prioritizing reinvestment over short-term shareholder returns. Since then, Bezos has kept shareholders up to date in annual letters, recapping key achievements, discussing business figures and announcing plans for the coming years.

However, this year's letter will be the last. Bezos is stepping down from his role as CEO, but will remain loyal to Amazon as Executive Chair. In this summary, you can find out what Amazon has achieved under Bezos' leadership in the past year and how things will continue in the coming years.

Highlights of the year 2020

Amazon's outstanding highlight was certainly the creation of 500,000 jobs. While many companies had to suffer declining sales due to lockdowns, Amazon was able to continue expanding, not least due to a 38 % increase in sales (approx. 100 billion dollars more than in the previous year). This also allowed Amazon to introduce a 15 US dollar minimum wage in the USA.

Meanwhile, the number of small and medium-sized businesses selling on Amazon continued to rise. These now account for around 60 % of all sales worldwide. Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, around 4.8 billion dollars were turned over worldwide.

In the latest shareholder letter from outgoing CEO Jeff Bezos, he recalls the very first shareholder letter from 1997, in which he expressed his intention to turn Amazon into a permanent franchise. In the 24 years since then, Amazon has increased its workforce from 614 to around 1.3 million employees - a huge success that Bezos rightly points out in this year's shareholder letter.

2020 was a year in which successful investments from the past paid off particularly well. Amazon Prime and Alexa are also well received in Germany, AWS is the leading provider of cloud computing services worldwide and the Marketplace enables thousands of retailers in this country to benefit from the current e-commerce boom - retailers worldwide generated at least 25 billion US dollars in profit.

The year 2020 in figures

It's no secret that Amazon set records in every corner of its business last year - and it's not just about sales and profits.

In 2020, Amazon has, among other things

  • created around 500,000 new jobs,
  • 2.5 billion US dollars paid out as bonuses for "front-line" employees,
  • thousands of free Covid-19 tests carried out daily,
  • over 40,000 veterans and wives of veterans employed,
  • 40,000 employees with further training costs,
  • and 35,000 employees were promoted.

Amazon also made great progress with regard to partnerships in 2020. Among other things, Amazon has

  • reached the mark of 1.9 million small and medium-sized enterprises as Amazon Marketplace participants,
  • worked with 2,400 logistics companies to deliver parcels in Brazil, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States,
  • enables hundreds of thousands of companies to create websites and apps via AWS,
  • increased the number of developers for the Alexa platform to 700,000
  • and continue to grow the KDP program with millions of authors.

As part of its charitable endeavors, Amazon 2020 has

  • 20,000 GWh of energy generated from renewable sources,
  • "The Climate Pledge Fund" was created with 2 billion US dollars,
  • 100 million US dollars spent on the immediate reduction of CO2 emissions,
  • 100,000 electric cars ordered,
  • approx. 1 million tons of packaging material saved,
  • 4.4 million units of face masks donated,
  • over 12 million meals donated,
  • 65,000 Echos, Fire tablets and other electronic devices donated,
  • 2 billion for the construction and maintenance of affordable housing and
  • 100 million for the company's own family home.

Mission statement & future initiatives

Amazon is committed to climate protection and is taking part in "The Climate Pledge", an initiative to which other large companies such as IBM and Microsoft also belong. This project includes the net-zero emissions target, which is to be achieved by 2040. Amazon claims to be 100 % dependent on renewable energies by 2025 - that would be five years earlier than originally planned.

Amazon has already invested heavily in renewable energies in 2020. The renewable wind and solar projects operated by Amazon produce more than 20,000 GWh of electricity annually. In addition, Amazon is providing 2 billion dollars for product developments that could lead to a further reduction in greenhouse gases.

Bezos emphasizes that Amazon now sees itself not only as the most customer-oriented company in the world, but also as the best employer in the world and the safest workplace in the world. Part of this is to be the WorkWell program, in which new employees are to be trained in movement sequences and rotate tasks in a way that avoids repetitive sequences and addresses different muscle groups. This is intended to prevent work-related injuries such as musculoskeletal disorders.

Tobias Dziuba

My name is Tobias and I am the founder and managing director of the Amazon agency Adsmasters GmbH based in Düsseldorf.

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