After public outrage over worker treatment, Amazon’s hiring a director of social responsibility

Truth to power?
Truth to power?
Image: AP/Reed Saxon
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Amazon is hiring a new head of social responsibility as the e-commerce giant fights criticism over its management and worker treatment.

Christine Bader, who left her post managing social and human rights policies at oil giant BP in 2008 before the 2010 deadly Deepwater Horizon oil explosion, has spent her career pushing companies to pay more attention to human rights, and to clearly define what corporate social responsibility actually means.

After BP, she helped create the UN’s guiding principles on business and human rights and wrote a book on her experience working at BP in the run-up to Deepwater Horizon.

“Had my nine-year relationship with BP been a sham?” she wrote in the book, The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil. Ultimately, she concluded that corporations like BP are “flawed and complex” and often “advancing human rights in some ways while compromising them in others,” according to the New York Times book review.

The challenges she faces at Amazon fit that mold. Bader, who announced the move on her Facebook page, confronts a company termed the “corporate scrooge of Seattle” for not giving back enough to its hometown.  Though Amazon has donated millions of dollars to disaster relief efforts and has been praised for environmentally-conscious buildings and packaging efforts, it is under fire for turning a blind eye to its own corporate culture and mistreating workers in its warehouses, as well as its home office. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Like BP, its human rights problems threaten to drag down the company. But in Amazon’s case they hit much closer to home.