So if we just forget for a second that there is some serious tax avoidance problems, the way they treat their employees, inequality within their company and the difficulties they cause for small businesses (see how I didn’t talk about it but did… I thought it was clever too!), despite the fact Amazon claim to be making huge steps towards sustainability, they really aren’t doing enough. I personally avoid it at all costs and I think you should boycott Amazon too. Here is why…
Amazon Prime & Overconsumption
First of all, no judgement from me if you are a Prime user – you are one of 200 million of them so that would be a tonne of judgement for me to dish out which I don’t have the time or energy for. The same goes for everything I write about, I firmly believe that if we all do what we can and make small steps towards sustainability, the world will be a much healthier place.
Anyway, Amazon Prime is a wonderful invention, with next day delivery (or even delivery in 2 hours in some places!). Well, I would argue not so much. Amazon Prime, and Amazon in general, blur the lines between want and need by removing the usual barriers we face in order to make a purchase. Suddenly, no matter what it is we need, all we have to do is open our laptop and click a button! Yep, just one button. Just a bit different than having to go into town, find the item in the shop, stand in the inevitable queue, try to remember what on earth your pin is then lug said item home.
I appreciate I have made Amazon purchases seem pretty attractive, but that’s exactly what they do too! The thing is, with these barriers removed, it is so easy for us to buy things we don’t need and haven’t thought through properly. Enter overconsumption. It is a HUGE issue and topic to cover so if you want to know more head over to my YouTube channel (and subscribe of course!) to watch the video I posted about overconsumption a while ago.
Carbon Footprint & Resource usage
The phrase carbon footprint, is a controversial one (if you want to know why, I can write a whole post about it), but for ease we’re going to use it here.
Amazon have made a commitment to reduce their carbon footprint in the coming years (more on that later) but in 2020, their net carbon emissions increased by over 15%! Yeah I know what you’re thinking, “It’s because of the pandemic”. Well sure, but what about the increase of 19% in 2019?
A huge part of this is due to the fast shipping that Amazon provides. Don’t get me wrong, I was so pleased to hear about Amazon investing in a fleet of electric vans, but there’s more to carbon emissions than just what comes from the delivery vehicle.
Take the amount of cardboard that Amazon uses (again, I am aware they are now using paper tape – so credit where credit is due), stats from 2018 suggest that square footage of cardboard used in just one day could cover the area of London 45 times… yep, 45 TIMES!!! That’s a heck of a lot of cardboard.
Not just that, there is evidence to suggest that due to Amazon’s astronomical cardboard usage, some smaller companies are finding it difficult to get their hands on cardboard for their packaging. I appreciate this is tricky to believe but it was most evident during the height of the pandemic. There were reports that some companies were having to revert to using plastic packaging instead. I appreciate that you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet (and I am not 100% sure of my sources here) but even so, I would rather be safe than sorry.
Again, shameless reference to my own content, if you want to find out about why plastic is an issue (and recycling isn’t all it’s cracked up to be), check out the video below.
Amazon Data Centres
This is one of the least obvious ways Amazon impacts the environment, is their data centres. You know those AWS ones you see with the incredibly annoying little girl saying, “but how do you know that?” over and over again on the advert. Oops, sorry my inner bugbear came out a bit there.
Sorry, back to the sustainability issues. Data is one thing we don’t think about in terms of environmental impact but there is evidence to suggest that large data centres such as AWS, not only rely heavily on fossil fuels to build and run but also release “hidden” greenhouse gasses. Yup, turns out even the paperless options are bad for the planet. This sustainability thing is a bit complex, have I mentioned. I am planning a post about how cloud storage impacts the environment, so I won’t go too heavily into detail here but for now just know that despite Amazon claiming to be taking steps to become more sustainable, they are building and investing in loads of these new AWS data hubs. The mind boggles.
Climate Pledge & Amazon’s Focus on Climate Change
I touched on this earlier, but Amazon have promised to reach the net zero carbon by 2040 as well as using 100% renewable energy by 2025, which by the way, Greenpeace have accused them of abandoning. The problem I have with this is it is incredibly difficult to find any solid figures in terms of Amazon’s environmental impact and they have a bit of a habit of keeping it out of the public domain. Anyone else got alarm bells going off?
One of the things that is super important to me when looking through sustainability practices of companies, is the transparency of the company with regards to their current impact as well as looking for clearly outlined, actionable goals. Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t see either of these things when it comes to Amazon. After some fairly intensive digging online, the only information I can find is vague information published by Amazon themselves. Seems a bit suspicious to me.
Another alarm bell is that as the world’s largest retailer with an income of over $386 billion dollars last year (or so I am told by online sources), they have only pledged $10 billion towards their sustainability practices. I mean really? A company who claim to be so environmentally focused, even with an advert on TV (which pushes my buttons), only pledge 2.5% of a single years profit. Not that great really is it. How can this be seen as one of their top priorities? I find it so frustrating because they really have the power to do so much more.
On top of this, Amazon have been known to back and sponsor the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a huge corporation known for being climate change deniers. If that name seems familiar, it might be due to the fact they were instrumental in Trump’s decision to pull the USA out of the Paris agreement. It does make you wonder where Amazon’s heart really is at.
Some final thoughts
The most frustrating thing for me is that huge corporations like Amazon have the power to (almost) singlehandedly save the world. With the resources they have and their power of influence, they really could do so much good. Unfortunately, with their current core business model of impulse buys, fast retail, driving down prices and speedy delivery, they will always be in conflict with sustainable practices, unless they make a complete U-turn.
I hope you have enjoyed today’s post as much as I have enjoyed researching it. There are lots of alternatives out there and if you’re interested I can do a follow up post to this later in the week with some really awesome sustainable alternatives to Amazon.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog, find me on social media and share this post with someone who really needs to read it. Speak to you soon.