Amazon Company Review

January 12, 2017

Welcome to the Amazon company review. In this series of articles, we put the spotlight on businesses that we think are doing ambitious and honourable things for the environment. These features will cover things like corporate social responsibility, sustainability, green credentials, carbon reduction measures, recycling, reuse and reduction efforts, supply chain responsibility, and more. To provide a fair and balanced account, we will also cover any wrongdoing, environmental damage, or bad practice that we find.

Each category will be scored out of 20, to give a total score out of 100.

Does Amazon need an introduction? It’s one of the biggest businesses in the world (third most valuable), operating as an electronic commerce and cloud computing company. Founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, Amazon is now valued at more than $1 trillion, with Jeff having a personal wealth of well over $100 billion. But beyond money, mega-profits, success, and sales, is Amazon a good company? Do they care about sustainability, carbon emissions, and recycling? Do they help the communities where they are based and are they being recognised for their work? 

Let’s find out.



Score: 19%

Amazon has been a loud supporter of the Paris Climate Change negotiations since 2015 Amazon is on the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) Amazon is one of six original signatories to the recently-released Sustainable Fuel Buyers’ Principles, an initiative coordinated by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) Amazon joined the Sustainable Packaging Coalition® (SPC), an industry working group dedicated to a more robust environmental vision for packaging Amazon joined The Recycling Partnership to improve recycling across the United States Amazon joined the U.S. Partnership for Renewable Energy Finance (US PREF) For their cloud computing facilities alone, Amazon has built 6 of their own solar farms, and 3 of their own wind farms across the US. These renewable energy projects are expected to deliver over 2 million MWh of energy annually onto the electric grid. The electricity produced from these projects is enough to power the equivalent of over 190,000 U.S. homes annually In total, they now have 32 wind and solar farms across the US Retrofitted all facilities with LED lights, saving 185,000 MWh of energy per year Many of their facilities are built with green roofs, as well as other sustainable design technologies Working on reaching a 100% renewable energy supply Been running food donations centres since 2016 in conjunction with ‘Feeding America’ If you prefer cold, hard data, take a look at these three figures below: Amazon is a member of 16 different national and international sustainability partnerships and initiatives They are in the process of installing 50 rooftop solar farms on their facilities by 2020 In the last decade, their frustration-free packaging programmes have saved 500 million cardboard boxes from being used, equating for 244,000 tonnes If Amazon wanted a perfect 20, they need to start doing some environmental and sustainability reporting, as their transparency is weak at best. This is the main complaint from the outside looking in.

Green Credentials

Score: 17%

2017 ACORE Corporate Innovation and Leadership Award in Renewable Energy The Values Institute: 2017-2018 America’s Most Trustworthy Brands #1 Amazon is a member of the Business Renewables Center (BRC), which streamlines and accelerates the corporate procurement of utility-scale wind and solar energy Amazon is part of BSR (Business for Social Responsibility), a global nonprofit organization that works with its network of more than 250 member companies and other partners to build a just and sustainable world Amazon signed the Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, which were developed by over fifty corporate signatories with the support of nonprofit partners World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) Amazon joined the Business Environmental Leadership Council at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) to work towards practical solutions to the world’s climate and energy challenges Amazon joined the Corporate Eco Forum (CEF), which is an invitation-only membership group for large companies that demonstrate a serious commitment to sustainability as a business strategy issue Amazon joined the U.S. DOE's Workplace Charging Challenge to demonstrate their support for the development of the national plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) infrastructure Amazon is a member of the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA), an organization focused on the specific concerns of transport packaging Amazon joined the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA), a nonprofit coalition of companies committed to supporting the rights and well-being of workers and communities worldwide affected by the global electronics supply chain On the negative side, one Forbes article written by transport and supply chain expert Steve Banker stated that he felt Amazon was the least sustainable company in the world, namely due to the fact that they make almost zero effort to mitigate greenhouse gases across their supply chain.  They are members of an impressive amount of organisations, and while they are missing out of awards due to their lack of transparency, they are huge supporters of everything from sustainable packaging to renewable energy. 

Corporate Social Responsibility Test

Score: 16%

Amazon’s Worldwide Sustainability consists of 6 large teams: social responsibility, energy and environment, customer packaging experience, sustainability services, sustainability technology, and sustainability science R&D To reduce food wastage, Amazon Fresh and Amazon Pantry have been connected to various initiatives that allow for food donations to be made. In 2016, they provided 5.3 million meals through the ‘Feeding America’ project They created more than 20 buildings in Seattle using cutting-edge environmental technologies, including green walls, solar roofs, and free charging spots for electric vehicles Amazon has made major contributions to society, making products and services available to people all over the globe, helping the world to be better connected and provided for Wherever they have premises, they make investments into the local community and workforce Amazon spent over $50 million to air condition all of their facilities after some workers complained of extreme heat. They also made breaks longer, shifts shorter, and ensured there were ice machines in their premises They make regular donations to organisations like the Red Cross, and various children’s hospitals Amazon made large charitable contributions to many global disasters, like 9/11, Tsunamis, and Hurricanes Introduced digital reading services to all of Kenya’s public libraries, giving access to books to over 500,000 people Paid for the tuition of over 16,000 employees to help them get a further educations Big supporters of the remote work movement, allowing their staff to spend more time with their family and less time commuting Amazon Smile was set up to allow people making purchases to support a charity of their choice

Carbon Footprint

Score: 14%

Amazon was the leading corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the United States in 2016 They have a long-term goal to power their global infrastructure using 100% renewable energy 32 active wind and solar projects across the US, currently adding 50 rooftop solar farms to their owned premises, adding millions of MWh of renewable energy to the grid each year Amazon’s eco-friendly corporate HQ in Seattle is heated by underground recycled eco-district of energy. Read about this innovation and how it supports Seattle’s mission to be carbon neutral by 2050 It’s not all good and positive for Amazon though, they were given an ‘F’ by CDP in 2016 for their nonparticipation in a carbon data disclosure project, making them the largest company in the world not to play ball. It’s assumed that their reluctance to give up their carbon data since 2010 is because they are responsible for huge carbon emissions and even good PR can’t undo that. Regardless, their contribution to renewable energy is fantastic.

Recycling, Reuse, Reduction

Score: 16%

In 2017, Amazon reduced their packaging waste by 16%, avoiding 305,000,000 boxes in the process Amazon employs a team of packaging designers to ensure waste is minimised whilst still protecting the contents of packages Amazon regularly tests its fulfilment and delivery network to ensure that packaging is strong and secure enough that they won’t require second shipments because of damage Frustration-Free Packaging, an Amazon initiative running since 2018, has grown to include more than 750,000 products. As of December 2017, Amazon’s sustainable packaging innovations have eliminated 215,000 tonnes of packaging material and avoided 360 million shipping boxes To certify products as part of their Frustration-Free Program, Amazon works with manufacturers worldwide, helping them innovate and improve their packaging functionality, reducing waste throughout the supply chain Introduced free shipping for customers who wish to return electronics so that they can be reused or recycled efficiently Amazon customers can drop off Amazon Basics rechargeable batteries at almost 30,000 collection sites throughout the U.S. and Canada All packaging is 100% recyclable, with no clamshell cases or plastic/metal wiring Transparency on this topic was limited, but we feel that Amazon is doing quite well to reduce waste packaging, based on their figures and return schemes. 

Total Eco Score

Score: 82%