Amazon’s mission is “to be the Earth’s most customer-centric company.” In April 2021, they added two visions to this mission: to be “Earth’s best employer” and “Earth’s safest place to work.” You can read more at Amazon’s About Us page, which states these items alongside four key values in Amazon’s full mission statement:
Amazon is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Amazon strives to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, Earth’s best employer, and Earth’s safest place to work.
Since its inception, Amazon has defined itself first and foremost by its relentless focus on customers. In his first letter to shareholders in 1997, Jeff Bezos emphasizes that “we will continue to focus relentlessly on our customers.” To this day, “customer obsession” remains the first of Amazon’s values.
This customer-centric philosophy permeates Amazon. It is central to many of their biggest innovations, such as customer reviews and 2-day Prime shipping.
It remains to be seen whether Amazon can balance its customer-obsessed mission with its newer commitments to become “Earth’s best employer” and “safest place to work.” We’ll dig into this tension more when we discuss Amazon’s two vision statements. But first, let’s clear the air regarding an inaccurate Amazon mission statement I’ve seen floating around the web.
Inaccurate Amazon Mission Statement
I’ve seen some websites quote Amazon’s mission statement as “We strive to offer our customers the lowest possible prices, the best available selection, and the utmost convenience.”
However, I could not find this statement on Amazon’s website, their About website, or in any official communications on the part of Amazon. As far as I can tell, this is a fake mission statement that has been repeatedly quoted by poorly researched websites.
Those curious about Amazon’s corporate culture would do best to look at Amazon’s website and official, public statements – or, since this article is based entirely on these official sources, read on.
Amazon’s Two Vision Statements
In his final letter to shareholders, published in April 2021, Jeff Bezos introduced two new Amazon vision statements. These employee-focused visions are closely related: to become “Earth’s Best Employer” and “Earth’s Safest Place to Work.”
Jeff Bezos introduced this double vision in direct response to public criticism and the ongoing union campaign in Alabama:
Does your Chair take comfort in the outcome of the recent union vote in Bessemer? No, he doesn’t. I think we need to do a better job for our employees. While the voting results were lopsided and our direct relationship with employees is strong, it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees – a vision for their success.
Unlike a mission statement, which speaks to the core of a company’s DNA, a vision statement describes an ambitious long-term goal. Where a mission statement describes why a company exists, its vision statement tells you where it wants to go. So, while Amazon’s relentless focus on customers has been apparent from the start, this new vision has yet to be realized.
There is, admittedly, some tension between Amazon’s customer-centric mission and its employer-focused visions. In this letter to Amazon’s shareholders – Jeff Bezos’ last – he acknowledges this:
If any shareowners are concerned that Earth’s Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work might dilute our focus on Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company, let me set your mind at ease. Think of it this way. If we can operate two businesses as different as consumer ecommerce and AWS, and do both at the highest level, we can certainly do the same with these two vision statements. In fact, I’m confident they will reinforce each other.
For a company with a history of workplace issues, both in its fulfillment centers and its corporate offices, this new vision is pretty ambitious. That can make for an effective vision statement. However, it remains to be seen whether Amazon can realize these big, long-term goals; you don’t become the best and safest workplace overnight.
And, if we’re looking at new CEO Andy Jassy’s most recent letter to shareholders, published in April 2022, it’s unclear whether Amazon is remains committed to this big vision much at all. Where Bezos mentioned employees 33 times in his letter to the shareholders, Jassy mentions them only six times in his recent letter. He refers to Amazon’s ambition to be the Earth’s best employer not as a vision, but as a new leadership principle, placing it alongside 16 secondary values.
As for their prior commitment to becoming Earth’s safest place to work, Jassy doesn’t bring it up at all. Based on this recent letter, it appears that Amazon’s brief focus on workplace safety may have already run its course.
Amazon’s Company Values
Amazon identifies four principles as its core values:
- Customer obsession rather than competitor focus
- Passion for invention
- Commitment to operational excellence
- Long-term thinking
As we’ve already described, Amazon’s relentless customer obsession has been a defining characteristic since its early days, so it’s no surprise to see this first among the company’s values.
Amazon also considers itself an innovative company. This might be why they’ve continued to develop new products and services over the years, from Prime shipping to Kindle eReaders to Amazon Web Services, which now undergirds vast swathes of the internet. According to Amazon’s About pages, this passion for invention doesn’t stop within the company, and employees are encouraged to keep “looking for new ideas from everywhere”.
Operational excellence drives much of Amazon’s customer obsession; there’s no way you can deliver millions of packages a week within a two-day window without a supreme fulfillment operation.
Amazon’s commitment to long-term thinking over short-term goals must have stood out in 1997, when so many corporations and investors were narrowly focused on short-term returns. But Amazon has proven the value of long-term thinking: since they went public in 1997, their stock has increased in value nearly 2000 times its initial price.
Amazon’s Leadership Principles
Finally, Amazon’s “About” site lists 16 leadership principles that describe “how Amazon does business, how leaders lead, and how we keep the customer at the center of our decisions.” These principles appear to be secondary to the four core values outlined above. Here are all 16:
- Customer obsession
- Invent and simplify
- Leaders are right, a lot
- Learn and be curious
- Hire and develop the best
- Insist on the highest standards
- Think big
- Bias for action
- Earn trust
- Dive deep
- Have backbone; disagree and commit
- Deliver results
- Strive to be Earth’s best employer
- Success and scale bring broad responsibility
As mentioned, “Strive to be Earth’s best employer” appears to have slipped from Amazon’s highest-level vision to near the bottom of this list of principles. Going by Amazon’s official public messaging, it remains unclear where this newfound focus on employees fits among the company’s priorities.