Amazon is failing its own Climate Pledge


Are you an Amazon employee? Walk out with us! Pledge here to join the walkout on May 31th.

Background on the Climate Pledge

In December 2018, a group of employees, who would eventually start Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, filed a shareholder resolution, asking Amazon to create a comprehensive, company-wide plan to reduce its fossil fuel dependency. Soon after, 8,700+ employees joined the movement, signing an open letter about the company’s climate failures.

Amazon responded, releasing its carbon footprint for the first time, and announcing its Shipment Zero program to reduce transportation emissions. Employees still planned to walk out over climate because these goals were not enough to meet the full challenge of the climate crisis.

The announcement of the planned walkout from Amazon workers, and the surrounding publicity, led to a historic moment. On the eve of the walkout, Jeff Bezos announced The Climate Pledge, pledging that Amazon will be net-carbon-zero by 2040. In February 2020, Jeff Bezos also announced the Bezos Earth Fund, pledging $10 billion of his personal wealth to address climate change.

But Amazon is both failing these commitments and is not acknowledging the gaps in what they’ve even pledged to do.

Amazon is getting worse, not better, on climate

Amazon is a company that stands by data-driven decisions, and having a good impact, not just good intent. However, Amazon’s numbers and decisions on climate are shocking and unacceptable.

Amazon killed its Shipment Zero commitment

Recently, Amazon silently removed the first commitment it ever made on climate, and there’s no guarantee they won’t do this with other goals.

This is why the Climate Pledge must be evaluated on Amazon’s actions rather than the goal itself. If Amazon hasn’t shown us it is on track to meet the Climate Pledge, there’s no way we can trust it.

40% increase in emissions since 2019

Since announcing the Climate Pledge in 2019, Amazon’s emissions have increased 40%. The emissions have grown at ~18% per annum as Amazon’s business grows ~24% per annum and will continue to do so until strong measures to curtail it are put in place.

Graph displaying the trajectory of Amazon’s carbon emissions compared to their stated goal.
Extrapolated from Amazon’s carbon footprint reporting and the Climate Pledge’s net-zero carbon by 2040 goal.

Those rising emissions are also disproportionately concentrated in communities of color.

As investigated by Consumer Reports, Amazon’s warehouses are located primarily in communities of color, and these communities bear the brunt of the environmental impact of Amazon’s emissions.

“Communities that host delivery facilities end up being the losers,” says Sacoby Wilson, director of the Center for Community Engagement, Environmental Justice, and Health at the University of Maryland in College Park, who worked with CR to analyze the locations of Amazon facilities. “They get more traffic, air pollution, traffic jams, and pedestrian safety problems, but they don’t receive their fair share of the benefits that accrue from having the retail nearby. You can treat this pattern as a form of environmental racism.” — Consumer Reports, “When Amazon Expands, These Communities Pay the Price”

Amazon has failed to take these environmental injustices into account. It’s deeply concerning that Amazon’s decision to cancel its Shipment Zero goal could make this much worse, as major pollutants impacting these communities come from the large diesel trucks that make up Amazon’s vast transportation network.

Amazon is underreporting emissions so that it only puts itself on the hook for 1% of its online sales

A recent investigation also found that Amazon is not even counting a vast majority of its emissions. In terms of reporting emissions of its manufacture and disposal of products from its retail business, Amazon only tallies carbon emissions for its own Amazon-branded products which make up about a mere 1% of its online sales.

“This is how Amazon washes its hands of the climate impact of most of the things it sells: It simply decides to play by different rules than its peers.” — Will Evans, Reveal News, “Private Report Shows How Amazon Drastically Undercounts Its Carbon Footprint”

This means that even if Amazon met the Climate Pledge, it likely wouldn’t be a true net-zero emissions company, because it refuses to take accountability for the numerous other ways it impacts our environment.

Amazon also only tracks its corporate shuttles’ footprint — leading to 29% fewer carbon emissions from employee commutes as compared to Target, a much smaller company

Amazon reports 29% fewer carbon emissions from its employee commute as compared to Target which has a third of the employees as compared to Amazon. While this seems impressive at face-value, it yet again highlights under-reporting of carbon emissions from Amazon. For reporting employee commute, Amazon only counts its emissions from corporate shuttles — while its peers, such as Target, Walmart, and The Home Depot, estimate the gas their workers burn while traveling to and from work. In response to this lower employee commute reporting, Amazon’s Davila told Reveal News that “Employees can use public transportation to get to the office, and if they live nearby, they can walk or bike.”

Amazon shut down a bill requiring data centers to reach 100% clean energy by 2040

Amazon recently killed a bill in Oregon that would have required data centers to be held to the same clean energy standards as public utilities (80% clean energy by 2030 and 100% by 2040).

Amazon is planning on building new data centers this year in Oregon that will run on fracked natural gas. To provide this fracked natural gas, Amazon is building new pipelines to connect to the interstate GTN pipeline in order to skirt the GHG cap in Oregon’s Climate Protection Program. This suggests that Amazon is planning to use these gas pipelines for an extended period.

In Oregon, Facebook and Apple voluntarily financed solar and wind projects to offset the emissions from their local data centers. Google reports Power Use Efficiency (PUE) metrics for all their data centers, including their two in Oregon, as an accountability device. But not Amazon. Amazon was rated by Wired Magazine as having the smallest renewable energy portfolio of the big 3 cloud computing platforms, and received an “F” grade for its almost complete lack of transparency with respect to its environmental footprint.

Achieving a zero carbon emissions business would start from accurately measuring and reporting carbon emissions, formulating and enforcing goals across business to reduce them, and funding initiatives to support those goals. The practices highlighted above are unequivocally at odds with an earnest commitment to the climate pledge. To earn employee trust, the company must reverse these obtrusive practices and invest in initiatives to achieve zero-carbon emissions by 2030.

How the future can look

We know when Amazon listens to employees, it moves in the right direction. And we’re here to get that back on track. That’s why we’re walking out again on May 31st.

The climate crisis is here now, and this is a real chance to stand together in solidarity to save every last slice of earth that we can. By joining this walkout, you’ll join a group of Amazon employees who are pushing Amazon to do better on climate and intersecting issues, and together we can make change at our company. We can imagine a world where Amazon’s innovation is directed towards the energy revolution, not just looking good on paper, and that world can only get built by workers who are ready to make change.

Are you an Amazon employee? Walk out with us! Pledge here to join the walkout on May 31th.

Read more about us (Amazon Employees for Climate Justice) here and here or feel free to Google us! Sign up for our email list here (we try to stay off corp for security reasons).