In this era, it’s very hip for businesses to have environmental sustainability programs in place. Most, if not all, include the goal of reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to help curb the worst potential effects of climate change. Already, we see bigger, stronger and more devastating weather events that are hard not to connect to our warming average temperatures. The unprovoked, devastating Russian invasion of Ukraine over the past month has only highlighted the free world’s need to reduce its long-term reliance on fossil fuels and the various autocratic petrol-states that preside over much of the world’s largest reserves.
While some businesses have been historically reticent to commit to the boldest climate solutions placed on the table, the current moment looks like it could be a tipping point. The success of Amazon’s Climate Pledge provides compelling evidence to back this up. By signing on to this initiative, companies commit to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. Notably, this goal is ten years ahead of the 2050 target set by the Paris Agreement, criticized then and now by climate scientists for not being aggressive enough to prevent the worst outcomes of climate change.
There was an appetite for action on this front, judging by the pledge’s breakneck pace of growth. Just this week, the online retail giant unveiled a whole new slate of signatories to the pact. Let’s take a closer look at this news.
I last wrote on the progress of the Climate Pledge for its second anniversary in the fall. Amazon announced over 200 new signatories to mark the occasion, including household names like Procter and Gamble, HP Inc., Salesforce and Nespresso. This week, 100 more signatories are joining the ranks, representing an astonishing 600% growth rate in participation over the past year. Other numbers are equally impressive—signatories now account for more than 3.5 trillion in global annual revenues. All said and told, participants employ a cumulative eight million people worldwide, across 51 different industries, operating in 29 countries.
Amongst the newcomers are global shipping giant Maersk, software developer SAP, sustainable timberland harvester Weyerhaeuser, residential solar leader Sunrun and HARMAN, whose name you’ve probably seen on connected car interfaces.
It’s also worth noting that, in many cases, the Climate Pledge is just one aspect of these joiners’ sustainability programs. Many of these companies have impressive sustainability resumes of their own that deserve to be acknowledged. For example, Maersk provides topline green customer solutions across its entire supply chain, even targeting emissions in ocean shipping. Maersk counts Amazon itself as a customer, reducing its shipping emissions by 20 KTonnes of CO2 in 2021, or roughly 50 million miles in a passenger vehicle. Weyerhaeuser harvests and supplies sustainable lumber for homes and more while reforesting 100% of its timberlands post-harvest—the equivalent of 130-150 million trees a year. Sunrun’s solar power systems have purportedly prevented 8.1 million metric tons of carbon emissions, roughly the equivalent of 20 billion passenger vehicle miles. SAP, for its part, recently pushed up its net-zero carbon target even earlier, now predicting it will get there by 2030. HARMAN is committed to powering all of its factories with 100% renewable energy by 2025 while also reducing emissions, energy consumption and waste across its value chain.
A couple of years ago, Amazon launched a $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund to serve as a venture capital provider of sorts for businesses investing in low carbon products and services. Bringing this full circle, the latest round of signers also includes several past recipients of Amazon’s investment. Infinium is a renewable fuels technology company targeting the decarbonization of the transportation sector—a huge contributor to the overall CO2 emissions driving climate change. New signatory BETA Technologies is developing an electrical aerospace company working towards a similar goal.
Another recipient, Pachama, leverages remote sensing and machine learning to measure and monitor the amount of carbon sequestered in forests, providing much-needed transparency to organizations and individuals. One of the critical components of the Climate Pledge is for signers to offset any remaining emissions they can’t eliminate outright via reforestation and other carbon capture efforts. Pachama’s technology and assessments seek to ensure these efforts are equivalent to the amount of carbon they aim to offset.
Why this is important
Every successive report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) seems to become increasingly dire. The latest stressed the need for governments across the globe to take immediate action to cut emissions and invest in natural climate solutions that limit atmospheric warming to approximately 1.5 degrees Celsius. I think many of us can agree that government rarely accomplishes anything substantial immediately. Faced with that reality, it’s a good thing that businesses like Amazon aren’t waiting for someone to tell them when they have to do something. Instead, they’re stepping up on their own accord to get the ball rolling.
While 300 is a very significant roster, it likely still won’t be enough to slow the Earth’s warming to an acceptable level at the end of the day. This is why I find that 600% growth rate so encouraging. If Amazon can maintain it, there’s no telling the impact the Climate Pledge could have. It’s starting to look less like a sustainability program and more like a movement.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.