After taking his seat on Blue Origin’s inaugural flight, Jeff Bezos appeared changed by his trip into the atmosphere. Once back on terra firma, the world’s richest man pledged to use Blue Origin’s capabilities to help clean up the Earth.
At the time, he told MSNBC that he hoped “to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry and move it into space, and keep Earth as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is.”
These lofty ambitions fit well with Blue Origin’s mission statement, which says the company is planning for a “future where millions of people are living and working in space to benefit Earth”.
However, a new essay signed by 21 current and former employees at Blue Origin shows that Bezos may first have some cleaning up to do much closer to home.
The essay, originally published on Lioness, was signed by Alexandra Abrams, former head of Blue Origin employee communications, and 20 other Blue Origin employees who wished to remain anonymous.
In it, the signatories alleged that the “mostly male and overwhelmingly white” workforce has fostered a “toxic environment” that spawned a “particular brand of sexism”.
Working at the company has also hit employees’ mental health, as the essay explains:
“Former and current employees have had experiences they could only describe as dehumanizing, and are terrified of the potential consequences for speaking out against the wealthiest man on the planet.”
While Bezos hopes his space agency can help tackle the climate crisis, the essay also alleges that concerns about the environmental impact of space tourism have been quashed by senior figures.
The essay reads: “We did not see sustainability, climate change, or climate justice influencing Blue Origin’s decision-making process or company culture.”
In response to the allegations, a Blue Origin statement said:
“Blue Origin has no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind. We provide numerous avenues for employees, including a 24/7 anonymous hotline, and will promptly investigate any new claims of misconduct.”
I don’t doubt that Bezos has the funds to support his company’s ambitions to clean up the Earth, and maybe the organization can find a way to address the climate emergency without just hiding all our current problems in outer space.
In order to uncover such solutions, Blue Origin is going to need to attract the brightest minds from around the world.
In order to do this, Bezos and his space agency must implement structures to rectify allegations such as these. Current and former staff should be free to voice any concerns they may have, and the organization needs to be seen to address them.
Until such a time that these measures are in place, is there any way Blue Origin can cary out its mission to have millions “living and working in space”?
And, if Bezos really means what he says about protecting “this beautiful gem of a planet,” then that should also mean his employees that live and work here.