The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a United Nations-backed organisation that helps companies set and validate emissions reduction targets in line with climate science, has removed Amazon from its list of companies taking action on climate goals.
In 2019, Amazon pledged to eliminate or offset all of its carbon emissions by 2040. The company committed to submitting its goals to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) for verification the following year. The validation for Amazon has since been removed by SBTi, citing the reasoning as an “expired commitment,” which means that the company failed to establish a credible goal for reducing carbon emissions by the deadline.
In a blog post earlier this month, Amazon said “In 2020, Amazon committed to setting voluntary targets with the Science Based Target initiative (SBTi). Since then, SBTi’s requirements for submission changed, and new methodologies have begun to be developed. Amazon is among hundreds of organisations that received an extension on their original deadline to submit due to these ongoing changes.”
The post continued, “We have continued to work with SBTi throughout this time to determine appropriate submission guidelines and methodologies for complex businesses like Amazon, however it remains difficult for us to submit in a meaningful and accurate way. We will continue to work with SBTi to establish a path forward for submission, and we believe there’s a role to play for organisations like theirs.”
Amazon’s emissions have increased by around 40% since the company set its net zero target in 2019. The increase was particularly sharp in 2021 when emissions rose by 18%. However, in a surprise turn they tracked slightly lower in 2022 as the company’s growth slowed, and renewable energy projects came online.
One noteworthy aspect of Amazon’s most recent sustainability report is that the company intends to revise its supply chain standards in 2024. Under the new standards, suppliers will be required to share their carbon emission’s data with Amazon and set carbon goals. This is a considerable step, as it will help Amazon to tackle scope 3 emissions from its supply chain, which is a major source of overall emissions.
Elsewhere, January saw Amazon withdraw its sustainability goal of having half of its packages delivered with zero carbon emissions by 2030. The company said that it “no longer made sense” to have a separate climate goal for shipping, as this was already covered by its broader Climate Pledge to achieve net zero emissions across its entire business by 2040.
According to Amazon, while it will continue its ongoing work with the SBTi, it will also seek to set science-based targets with “other organisations” and third-party validators.
The SBTi situation
Amazon has the largest market value of the roughly 120 companies removed from the list. American retail chain Kohl’s was also on the list, which you can find by searching the SBTi tracker and filtering by ‘Commitment removed’.
A stamp of approval from SBTi helps investors figure out whether portfolio companies have committed to credible climate goals. Such data is increasingly tracked by the world’s biggest money managers and just over 5,900 companies have made SBTi commitments or targets, including Microsoft, Dell, Cisco, and Apple with around 3280 currently approved by the initiative.
However, criticism was recently levelled at the SBTi for adopting a definition of net zero that critics say “rules out SMEs”, which account for around 99% of businesses. Citing a “lack of flexibility” provided to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the SBTi methodology to define net zero.
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