Business

Amazon Has Stopped Giving Away Some Money

Generosity is a hallmark of the public activity of many large companies. Either it is done for PR reasons or because of the compassion of management or owners. Amazon shut down its most visible charitable donation program. It is a strange decision. The program is small compared to Amazon’s massive revenue and battle tank-like balance sheet.

The AmazonSmile charitable program started in 2013. Since then, it has brought in $499 million in donations. The money comes from Amazon customers who donate a tiny part of their purchases. The actual cost to Amazon is negligible. The company does make charitable donations elsewhere.

Amazon’s excuse was, “With so many eligible organizations—more than 1 million globally—our ability to have an impact was often spread too thin.” That is not much of an excuse. Amazon could have picked a much smaller number than one million, and targeting the money would have had an effect, and perhaps a significant one.

Amazon’s decision may be tied to its laying off 18,000 people. No one outside the company will know that, but the two announcements came almost simultaneously.

Both the layoffs and the shuttering of the charity have to be viewed in the light of the $60 billion on its balance sheet. Perhaps management knew that it would never replace the laid-off workers. The jobs that do may never be replaced. Charitable donations are different matters. The people and organizations that need them will need them the day AmazonSmile disappears. (These are 20 perks of Prime membership you may not know about.)

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