Online retailer and internet megalith Amazon has announced plans to make all its shipments net zero carbon under the banner “Shipment Zero” with an interim target of making 50% of all shipments net zero by 2030.
At the same time as Amazon has come under fire for its failure to follow through on its 100% renewable energy promises for its data cloud service, Amazon Web Services, the company came out on Monday and announced that it plans to make all its shipments net zero carbon. The monopolistic global online retailer expects to be able to ensure 50% of all Amazon shipments are net zero carbon by 2030 thanks to improvements in electric vehicles, aviation biofuels, reusable packaging, and renewable energy.
Writing on the company’s Day One blog, Dave Clark, the company’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Operations, highlighted Amazon’s “history of commitment to sustainability” which has been shown “through innovative programs such as Frustration Free Packaging, Ship in Own Container, our network of solar and wind farms, solar on our fulfillment center rooftops, investments in the circular economy with the Closed Loop Fund, and numerous other initiatives happening every day by teams across Amazon.” Further, according to Clark, Amazon currently has over 200 scientists, engineering, and product designers in operations “dedicated exclusively to inventing new ways to leverage our scale for the good of customers and the planet.”
Amazon plans to use both their scale and the feedback of customers to “enable and encourage” suppliers up and down Amazon’s supply chain to reduce their own environmental impact — just as, according to Dave Clark, the company has done with its Ship in Own Container and Frustration Free Packaging programs.
Maybe the most important aspect of Amazon’s announcement is its new commitment to share Amazon’s company-wide carbon footprint, along with related goals and programs. Amazon has come under fire for failing to disclose its energy usage and climate-related goals, making this aspect of the company’s announcement a significant deal. Amazon plans to disclose the information later this year following what the company describes as “an extensive project over the past two years to develop an advanced scientific model to carefully map our carbon footprint to provide our business teams with detailed information helping them identify ways to reduce carbon use in their businesses.”
Given the findings of Greenpeace’s “Clicking Clean Virginia” report which blasted Amazon for failing to hold up its agreement to secure 100% renewable energy electricity to power its Amazon Web Services data centers, I reached out to Greenpeace for a comment on this new announcement from Amazon.
“The publication of a carbon footprint by Amazon would begin to close the gap that exists between its peers in the retail, tech, and delivery sectors who have been reporting their carbon footprint regularly for some time,” said Cassady Craighill, Senior Communications Specialist with Greenpeace USA. “Amazon customers and stakeholders will finally have some basis for evaluating the renewable projects it has undertaken, and assuming they publish it regularly each year, be able to see whether they are making progress toward reducing their reliance on fossil fuels that are fueling global warming, which would be essential to any legitimate claim of progress toward “zero carbon” shipping.”
However, according to Craighill, Amazon’s announcement nevertheless raises several questions, such as whether Amazon’s disclosure will include the emissions and carbon footprint of the thousands of independent contractors operating under Amazon Flex, and whether Amazon’s disclosed carbon footprint will include Amazon Web Services (AWS).
“The announced goal of “Net Zero Carbon” shipping is potentially significant, but raises lots of questions,” said Craighill.
“Given the breadth of the shipping and logistics network that Amazon operates, this is certainly an area (along with AWS) that Amazon must begin to move the needle on if it is serious about climate change. We understand Amazon has been lobbying for federal incentives for electric delivery vehicles, which is a positive sign they are looking at how to transition their fleet off of fossil fuels. But the key question is whether this new goal will be attached to transformative changes in how Amazon reports and powers its global logistics operations, making steady progress toward a transition off of fossil fuels.
“Given Amazon’s poor track record in transparency, and lack of follow through on existing environmental commitments, the concern remains that high profile actions are taken tied to certain pieces, but the bulk of the “net zero” claim is tied to the purchasing of low quality carbon offsets or similar actions that allow Amazon to make green claims, but do little to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels or their own emissions.”