If you follow the news or live in an area affected by any of the recent major national disasters, we could be now witnessing the effects of climate change firsthand. Just a couple of months ago, a major winter storm turned my home base of Austin into Chicago (but without the infrastructure to handle it). It’s a critical time to reflect on our collective impact on the pale blue dot. This week several companies I follow in the tech space announced new, bold climate initiatives in honor of Earth Day.
Of all the businesses out there, it’s hard to imagine anyone with the capacity to make a more considerable impact than Amazon. The massive online retailer’s delivery vehicles crisscross the entire world daily, and we’ve only come to rely on its services more heavily since the onset of the pandemic. To quote an old proverb, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Although it has come under heavy fire lately in the press on things like taxes and labor, Amazon had an opportunity to generate some friendlier headlines around its sustainability efforts this week. Let’s take a look at the news.
The Climate Pledge continues to snowball
In September of 2019, Amazon co-founded The Climate Pledge—a pact to meet the targets of the Paris Climate Accords ten years early by achieving net-zero carbon by 2040. I’ve been following Amazon’s progress since then (here), along with other sustainability announcements and partnerships. I did a double-take when I saw Amazon’s latest big update on the initiative—52 new companies have signed on to the Pledge virtually overnight, pushing the total number of signatories past 100. These include some huge brand names, such as Alaska Airlines, Colgate-Palmolive, Heineken, PepsiCo, Telefónica, and Visa, to name a few. Imagine how many products these companies manufacture and ship combined. Now imagine if all these companies reach the Climate Pledge target by 2040. The cumulative reduction in emissions and waste would be monumental. I believe Amazon is leading here.
Boosting eco-conscious shopping options
Last September, Amazon unveiled its Climate Pledge Friendly program, inspired by the Pledge and designed to guide environmentally conscious consumers towards sustainable products. According to Amazon, over 75,000 Climate Pledge Friendly products are now available in the U.S. and EU, denoted by certifications from third parties and Amazon’s own new Compact by Design designation.
This week, Amazon unveiled four new certifications for the Climate Pledge Friendly portfolio: CarbonNeutral Product (certified by Natural Capital Partners), Carbon Neutral Certification (by SCS Global Services), Climate Neutral (by Climate Partner), and lastly, the Carbon Trust Carbon Neutral Certification. Along with these new certifications come thousands of new Climate Pledge Friendly products, ranging from Flor de Caña Rum to solutions from Logitech.
Amazon also announced a 15-25% discount on Climate Pledge Friendly certified products from Seventh Generation, The Honest Company, and Ethique. The Seventh Generation and Ethique discounts will run April 20-30, while the Honest Company’s will run through April 22 (so get a jump on it!).
The event also spotlighted Amazon Renewed. Many are probably acquainted with the program, in which Amazon peddles pre-owned, refurbished products, inspected, and tested to work “like new.” Not only does the program cut down on electronic waste and extend product lifetimes, but it can also save customers money. Amazon claims its customers can locate many of its favorite brands for up to 40% off the original pricing. I’ve personally bought multiple refurbished Apple products through the program, and it all worked as promised and held up over time. It’s a solid bargain. I’d love for Amazon to look into modular PCs and smartphones that seem to address environmental issues more than current product lines.
My take—I think it’s great that Amazon is boosting these sustainable products. Many consumers, in theory, would love to be more conscious about its consumption, but let’s face it—it takes a lot of research and knowledge to determine who and what to support. Even then, it’s not always clear. The Climate Pledge Friendly program and its participants take over the legwork, serving ethical options up to customers on a silver platter. All you have to do is smash that “confirm order” button.
Investing in renewables
The second grouping of announcements made earlier in the week centered around Amazon’s investments in renewable energy projects. These power a growing percentage of the company’s corporate offices, fulfillment centers, Whole Foods locations, and AWS datacenters. The company revealed nine new utility-scale wind and solar projects, spanning the U.S., Canada, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
This brings the company’s total renewable energy projects up to 206 worldwide—71 utility-scale wind and solar projects and 135 solar rooftops. All told, Amazon says these investments will create 8.5GW of global electricity production capacity, making it the most significant corporate buyer of renewable energy sources in Europe (2.5GW of renewable energy capacity). This scaling of Amazon’s renewable energy investments is in line with its stated commitment to power 100% of its operations with renewables by 2025 (five years earlier than previously projected) and reach net-zero carbon by 2040. It’d be interesting if customers could pick AZ’s based on carbon footprints.
One good thing about a 1,000-pound gorilla like Amazon is that it can pull a lot of weight when applied to initiatives like this. Its footprint is massive and achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 would be a monumental accomplishment. I appreciate that Amazon isn’t only helping consumers be more conscious of their consumption with programs like Climate Pledge Friendly but also modeling the change we need to see more.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.