The online retail giant Amazon reported a sharp increase in planet-warming carbon emissions last year, blaming the surge in online sales during the pandemic.

The world’s largest online retailer said its carbon footprint rose 18% in 2021, concurrently with the company’s terrific growth during the pandemic.

Jeff Bezos’ multi-trillion-dollar company has grown exponentially in recent years to become the world’s largest online retailer by revenue and market capitalisation. Along with many other online retailers, Amazon has experienced a substantial increase in sales since the outbreak of the Covid19 pandemic, as digital channels became the most popular shopping alternative for consumers worldwide. In 2021, the global e-commerce market was valued at US$13 trillion.

Amazon’s rapid expansion did not come without environmental costs. This year’s sustainability report shows that to achieve net-zero by 2040, the company still has a long way to go.

According to its latest Sustainability Report, Amazon emitted nearly 72 million metric tons of carbon dioxide last year, a 40% increase in only three years. 

From the manufacturing of electronic devices to the storage, processing and worldwide shipping of millions of orders, Amazon’s business results in thousands of tons of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere as well as mountains of packaging waste.

While progress is slow, Amazon has also taken steps in the right direction. According to the report, the retail giant reached 85% renewable energy across its operation and is now “on a path to achieve 100% by 2025 – five years ahead of the original target.” 

It seems that Amazon’s efforts to run its operations more efficiently are also paying off. The sustainability report shows that its carbon intensity – a measurement that quantifies total carbon emissions per dollar of gross merchandise sales – fell by nearly 2%.

Part of this can be attributed to the company’s efforts to develop a more sustainable transportation infrastructure – with plans to make at least half of their shipments net-zero carbon by 2030 – as well as construct greener buildings. Amazon is also trying to reduce carbon emissions coming from packaging, but activists say it is only ‘the tip of the iceberg’. Besides these commitments, the company is investing in carbon removal projects.

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