Amazon’s latest sustainability report shows an 18% increase in its carbon footprint, but the company claims this isn’t the correct metric to look at, instead suggesting carbon intensity should be front and centre.
The latest annual sustainability report, published earlier this week, is a 100-page smorgasbord of ideas, innovation, and initiatives. While the report freely admits it is early days and Amazon doesn’t have all the answers yet, the tone is one of measured optimism.
Go to page 97 however, and there is one stat which does not chime with this tone. Amazon’s total emissions for 2021 equated to 71.54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. 2020’s was 60.64m. Amazon’s footprint actually went up to the tune of 18%, and almost 40% from 2019.
The company, however, is keen to point out that this figure isn’t really that important. Amazon prefers to analyse its progress in terms of ‘carbon intensity’, measuring how much CO2 emissions are produced per dollar of gross merchandise sales. On this metric, Amazon’s carbon intensity has gone down for the third year running, decreasing 1.9% this time round.
“As companies invest in new products and services, and their businesses grow substantially, the focus should not be solely on a company’s carbon footprint in terms of absolute carbon emissions, but also on whether it’s lowering its carbon intensity,” the report notes. “Over time, continued decreases in carbon intensity can lead to lower absolute emissions.”
There is an obvious mitigating factor for Amazon’s increased footprint in the form of Covid-19. Increased consumer demand led the company to expand its logistics and delivery networks, as well as new warehouses. Amazon says it has incurred more than $15bn in Covid-related costs to keep employees safe while responding to demand.
Amazon’s sheer size – and the responsibility this means – has been officially incorporated into its leadership principles. These principles adorn countless business studies textbooks, so their influence cannot be overstated. Broadly, the latest addendum reads “we are big, we impact the world, and we are far from perfect. We must be humble and thoughtful about even the secondary effects of our actions. Our local communities, planet, and future generations need us to be better every day.”
This can be seen in various Amazon environmental and social commitments in areas which many companies may not be able to explore. $2 billion (£1.64bn) has been invested through the Amazon Housing Equity Fund to support affordable housing, while as part of the company’s upskilling plans, 9,000 transportation associates have been trained to identify and respond to potential victims of human trafficking.
The Climate Pledge, with its commitment to net-zero by 2040, is a clear area of success. The initiative now has more than 300 organisations who have signed up, with $2bn investment to support the development of sustainable technologies. One such example is in new Amazon electric delivery vehicles built alongside Rivian, one of the first companies to benefit from the pledge fund.
Other milestones in the report include progress on commitments to power Amazon’s operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025. At the end of 2021 this number was at 85% for electricity across Amazon’s businesses, with 274 renewable projects in the works. More than 100 million packages were delivered using zero-emission vehicles last year, while 1.5 million tons of packaging has been eliminated since 2015.
It is therefore a self-imposed ‘could do better’ from Amazon, but built on solid foundations. “We are proud of the progress we’ve made, but we recognise we have more to do,” wrote Kara Hurst, Amazon VP worldwide sustainability. “Our everyday actions to deliver progress are in service of achieving long-term, systemic change that improves the well-being of people, communities, and the planet.”
“The path to achieving some of our goals will be long and complex, but we are not deterred.”
You can read the full report here (pdf, no data required).
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?