Amazon’s carbon emissions jumped significantly by 18 per cent last year, with the global tech giant’s activities booming thanks to the ongoing pandemic and an uptick in online sales.
While Amazon’s annual sustainability report touted the company becoming the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in 20202 and some of its other achievements, the tenth page reveals that the company’s absolute carbon emissions actually increased by 18 per cent in 2021.
In Australia, Amazon’s revenue reached $1.75 billion in 2021, a leap of 57 per cent from the previous year. Worldwide, Amazon’s revenues were up 7 per cent to $US121.2 billion in the last quarter, despite a 4 per cent drop in online sales. This was due largely to significant growth in its cloud computing branch.
Amazon’s activities emitted the equivalent of 71.54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2021, an increase of nearly 40 per cent from 2019. That’s the equivalent to what about 180 gas-fired power plants would pump out annually.
The company did point out that its carbon intensity – the total carbon emissions per dollar of gross merchandise sales – decreased by 1.9 per cent, but this was compared with a 16 per cent decrease in 2020.
The growth in Amazon’s business thanks to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and a surge in online sales meant that the company had to build new facilities and expand its transportation network, the report said.
“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 Amazon sustainability report said.
“While we’ve had some success cutting emissions from some operations, we are still early in the process of transforming others. Some actions and investments have immediate carbon savings, while others will take years to demonstrate results.
“The path to net-zero carbon has many obstacles, but we thrive on big challenges.”
Amazon co-founded the Climate Pledge in 2019 and announced its commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions across its business by 2040.
“The journey to become more sustainable is not simple or straightforward for any organisation,” Amazon vice-president of worldwide sustainability Kate Hurst said.
“For a company of the size and broad scope of Amazon, it’s a big challenge. But at Amazon we don’t shy away from big challenges. We innovate and create. We don’t have all the answers today, but we believe in the need to act now.”
In 2021, Amazon reached 85 per cent renewable energy across its business, according to the report.
“We are proud of the progress we’ve made, but we recognise we have more to do,” Hurst said.
“Our everyday actions to deliver progress are in service of achieving long-term systemic change that improves the wellbeing of people, communities and the planet.”
The Amazon report pointed to its support for Australian project Solcast, which uses cloud cover, solar radiation and photovoltaic power data to provide forecasts to the solar power industry.
While the report shows Amazon’s emissions jumped by nearly 20 per cent in the last year, the company has also faced criticism for “drastically undercounting” its own footprint.
The report claimed that Amazon only takes into account the full climate impact of products with an Amazon brand label, which account for only about 1 per cent of its total online sales. In contrast, companies like Target track the full lifecycle of its consumer products in terms of its carbon footprint.
Amazon doesn’t count products that the company buys from manufacturers and sells directly to the customer, or the emissions that go into and come out of making these products, the report said.