We’re asking Amazon to:
- Be transparent about its carbon footprint
- Pilot electric vehicle (EV) delivery in Seattle and the other top fifteen most polluted U.S. cities by 2020
- Make all operations fossil-fuel-free by 2030
Amazon’s Alarming Lack of Transparency
Accountability starts with measuring and disclosing carbon emissions—just as Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Walmart have been doing for years.
Disclosing emissions data is critical for any company that’s serious about social responsibility. The next step is setting targets to reduce negative health and environmental impacts.
According to the former climate chief of the United Nations, we have less than two years to prevent climate change from becoming irreversible. The problem is urgent; speed matters.
Work at Amazon? Want to create a better world for customers and the planet? Click here.
Amazon is Both Culpable and Capable
For all its customer obsession, Amazon hasn’t figured out a way to deliver services in a way that doesn’t directly endanger customers’ clean air, clean water, and livable future. But it could innovate an electric vehicle delivery system—this is, after all, the same company that built an inventory management system so efficient it enables five billion two-day deliveries in a single year.
Amazon Shipping is Quick and Dirty
By our estimates*, the company’s shipping operations in 2017 alone spewed at least 19.1 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere—the emissions equivalent of 4.7 coal-fired power plants operating for one year.
A Vacuum of Climate Leadership in the Pacific Northwest
The existential threat posed by the continued use of fossil fuels is being felt viscerally by vulnerable communities who are already bearing the brunt of climate disaster. Consider the Quinault Indian Nation of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, who had to relocate their homes due to the rising waters of the Salish Sea. Or Seattle’s racially diverse southside communities, where air quality has contributed to a life expectancy that is thirteen years shorter than Seattle’s more affluent neighborhoods. Those who contribute least to the problem—low-income folks, Indigenous peoples, communities of color—are most at risk. Amazon has the power and the influence to improve the quality of air, water, and health for these communities.
Amazon is in the Air We Breathe
Here in Seattle, we are falling behind our city’s climate goals, largely due to pollution from transportation.
This is a serious threat to the air we breathe, as well as to a stable climate future. South Park, hemmed in by freight traffic on I-5 and Hwy-99, is a predominantly Latinx neighborhood just twelve miles north of Amazon’s Kent warehouse. A 2013 study of air pollutants found a “disproportionate impact of diesel exhaust” on South Park compared to downtown Seattle. Given what we know about the myriad health hazards of diesel pollution, South Park’s low average life expectancy relative to the rest of Seattle is not surprising.
Wait… Isn’t Amazon Already Transitioning to Clean Energy?
It’s important to recognize the few things that Amazon is doing right: wind farms, solar panels, green building. It’s also important to put the company’s sustainability claims and efforts in context. For example:
Claim: More than 40% of the power consumed by Amazon Web Services (used by Reddit, Netflix, Vimeo, and more) infrastructure came from renewable energy sources in 2016.
Context: Amazon lumps nuclear (i.e. non-renewable) energy together with renewables to achieve 40%. Additionally, 30% of the power consumed by AWS is from coal, and Greenpeace gave Amazon an “F” grade for transparency on energy sources.
Claim: In 2017, Amazon made a 70 million dollar investment in zero-emission forklifts for its warehouses.
Context: Outside its warehouses, the only investments in low-emission vehicles in the U.S. are those made by “last mile” delivery drivers, i.e. contractors who’ve invested their own money in electric vehicles.
Okay, But Is Amazon Really in a Position to Effectively Tackle Climate Action?
Amazon’s operations are fragmented; its data centers are powered by utility companies in Virginia, its packages shipped by USPS, FedEx, and UPS. This segmentation has allowed Amazon to shirk responsibility for its emissions, shifting the burden of transparency and accountability onto other agencies.
Make no mistake, however: the company wields influence and decision-making power in its contracts with these carriers. It’s telling—and disconcerting—that Amazon has not used this leverage to advance a domestic diesel-to-electric vehicle transition, or a significant shift to renewables.
True, Amazon has made some noise about building out its own logistics operations, but the plans aren’t climate-friendly. Across Europe, the company is contracting to launch a fleet of 130 low-pollution, electric and natural gas vans and cars. The inclusion of natural gas here is disconcerting: a study by the Environmental Defense Fund concluded that a diesel-to-natural-gas transition would result in roughly 300 years of climate damage before any benefits would kick in. Shouldn’t a forward-thinking company leapfrog this dangerous fuel and invest directly in renewables? Amazon’s recent announcement regarding the launch of a domestic fleet is similarly discouraging: thus far, there’s been no mention of zero-emission vehicles in the U.S.
Compared to many of its corporate peers, Amazon is woefully behind. Google, which already achieved its goal of 100% renewable energy for all of its operations and data centers, successfully pressured energy providers in North Carolina to switch to renewable sources. Walmart has already placed pre-orders for Tesla’s new EV semi-trucks, showing that its ready to take initiative to move beyond diesel.
Prime Customers Wanted Electric Vehicle Delivery Yesterday
We don’t have the luxury of waiting for public policymakers to rein in Amazon’s climate impact; the threat to people and ecosystems is too overwhelming, and too immediate. Nor should Jeff Bezos wait for all of Amazon’s third-party contractors, carriers, and energy providers to make the transition to clean energy on their own accord.
If you work for Amazon and feel the urgency of taking action for the climate, click here.
Now is the time for Amazon to show real leadership and use its considerable leverage in negotiating with energy suppliers and delivery contractors. Now is the time for the company to pilot electric vehicle delivery and protect the vulnerable communities living near its many warehouses and delivery routes.
As Amazon’s HQ1 neighbors, we are in a unique position to hold Amazon accountable.
Want to get involved? Start by sending a letter to Jeff Bezos asking Amazon to stop delivering pollution.
Contact Rebecca to join the team and help with campaign planning.