Amazon.com Inc announced that it would disclose its carbon footprint later this year, giving consumers and investors new insight into the environmental cost of its popular two-day shipping.
The company also pledged in a blogpost on Monday that half of its shipments would be “net zero” carbon — also known as carbon-neutral — by 2030.
The world’s biggest e-commerce company has for years resisted pressure from investors and other stakeholders to disclose more information about its environmental impact.
Late last year, several Amazon employees used their stock grants to submit shareholder proposals asking the company to devise and disclose its plans for climate change.
Estimating the emissions from e-commerce is complicated. Ordering something online is often less energy intensive than driving to and from a physical store to pick up an item, because shipping can take advantage of economies of scale.
However, the benefit declines rapidly as delivery times get shorter and when customers do not group items together, Massachusetts Institute of Technology sustainable logistics professor Josue Velazquez-Martinez said.
That is a challenge for Amazon, which now counts more than 100 million Prime members, all of whom are eligible for two-day shipping.
“When customers want to receive a product in one or two days, the carbon emissions increase substantially,” Velazquez-Martinez said. “If you are willing to wait a week, it’s like killing just 20 trees instead of 100 trees.”
Amazon did not say whether it would be buying carbon offsets outright, and absent that, the most likely way for it to reach its emissions goals would be to fine-tune its delivery process.
The “last mile” of delivery — from a warehouse to a customer’s home, for example — is often one of the largest costs for e-retailers, Velazquez-Martinez said.
“They’ve definitely been a leader in terms of reducing packaging waste and purchasing renewable energy, but they still have a lot of improvements they can make,” Nuveen head of exchange-traded funds Martin Kremenstein said.
Social issues are becoming a bigger concern for Amazon, highlighted by concerns about labor, wages and its local impact after it withdrew a plan for a second headquarters in New York City, he said.
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