E-Commerce Innovations: Spotlighting Amazon’s Focus on Sustainability
The current economic climate is one saturated with fear, with the BBC reporting the UK economy could be set to contract by 35% as a result of COVID-19. Although small businesses remain most vulnerable, financial uncertainties continue to affect the vast majority of corporations, forced to furlough numerous employees, alongside declining productivity and income. As we transition into this period of fiscal austerity, many fear previous environmental initiatives will soon be overlooked, with leadership prioritising survival of commerce over the survival of the planet.
However, with the closure of traditional high street shops and ‘non-essential’ services, many are turning to online alternatives to fulfil their everyday needs. Therefore, within this commercial vacuum, online transnationals are among a handful of corporations that seek to gain from social distancing measures – the most influential of which is online e-commerce giant Amazon.
Combining retail, streaming and cloud technology, Amazon’s financial estimation are one of few that have increased during the pandemic, with MarketWatch reporting an increase of +0.25% in 2020. Alongside confirmed increases in traffic, Amazon recently announced plans to bring on an additional 75,000 staff on top of the 100,000 hired since March, reinforcing this rhetoric of growth. Although profit impacts are as yet unknown, this commercial security represents the unique capacity of e-commence to set industry standards in the continuance of green practice. It also makes these measures more crucial than ever, as with increasing trade, each step towards sustainability has a more significant impact.
Existing Policy Framework
At the heart of Amazon’s sustainable policy is its pioneering ‘Climate Pledge’: a commitment to be net carbon zero by 2040, 10 years before the proposed targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement. With COP26 recently postponed, this huge commitment is particularly poignant, representing a clear manifestation of their guiding principle of ‘long-term thinking’, and setting an ambitious precedent for other corporations to follow.
Within this umbrella commitment, Amazon’s focus centres around green energy. Aiming for 80% renewable energy by 2024, at present Amazon’s 26 existing solar and wind projects currently producing 6.2 million MWh of clean energy annually, indicating their goals are potentially within reach. Alongside these efforts, Amazon announced plans for ‘Shipment Zero’ in 2019, with the goal of 50% zero carbon shipments by 2030 – a halfway point to carbon neutrality in 2040, including policies aimed at transport, infrastructure, and packaging.
Following the emergence of COVID-19, Amazon’s response has been centred primarily around employee safety, support, and innovation. As outlined in Day One (Amazon’s online blog forum), their efforts have been diverse, from supporting the World Health Organisation with technical expertise and cloud technologies, to pledging $20 million to customer-driven diagnostic solutions. Following significant critique regarding worker safety, social concerns have now come into focus, sourcing millions of masks for both employees and frontline workers, coupled with initiatives focused on facilitating out of classroom learning, including donation of 8,200 laptops to Seattle Public School children.
In terms of sustainability, although news within their sustainability sector has remained relatively quiet, the company has made no indication of plans to halt programs of sustainability. Indeed, Amazon HQ press releases from mid-March outline the continuation of renewable energy initiatives, including four new wind and solar projects in Australia, Sweden, Spain and the US estimated to produce around 840,000 MWh of energy annually (enough to power 76,000 US homes). Additionally, early last month, Day One contributor Meg Coyle detailed the unveiling of a new fleet of electric delivery vehicles, whose design centres around core principles of safety and sustainability. Produced by Rivian, these feature Alexa voice control, smart VR headsets integrated into Amazon’s logistics management, and intelligent occupant cabin thermal controls systems, reported to reduce energy inefficiencies. A key strategy of The Climate Pledge, and indeed Shipment Zero, Amazon announced plans to have 10,000 operational by 2022, with 100,000 on the road by 2030.
Alongside pure sustainability focus, Day One provides guidance to businesses as they attempt to navigate remote work. Through articles such as ‘How to Lead without leaving Home’, other businesses can equip themselves with the tools to maintain productivity and moral within these new, challenging working environments. As such, Amazon is providing the potential capacity for other businesses to succeed, and thus for them to maintain the economic capacity to focus on facilitating green initiatives.
With sustainable e-commerce policies more crucial than ever, we applaud Amazon for their efforts so far, and encourage them to maintain their policies, even within these troubled times. For Amazon’s detailed policies of sustainability, please see here, or for more information about net zero corporate initiatives, click here.