In its annual report on sustainable development, the e-commerce giant reveals that its greenhouse gas emissions have exploded in the past two years, in particular because of its strong growth. The company does, however, intend to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040… A gamble far from won.
In 2021, Amazon emitted 18% more greenhouse gases than the previous year. And almost 40% more than in 2019. This is the sad observation made… by the e-commerce giant itself, in its annual report on sustainable development.
A particularly instructive document, which advances a total of 71.54 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent sent into the atmosphere in one year. That’s equivalent to the emissions of about 15.5 million gasoline-powered cars in one year, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
It is also interesting to compare this figure to that of other giant tech companies, which, like Amazon, publish similar reports every year. Thus, a company like Google emitted “only” 11.3 million tons of CO2 in 2021, and Apple, 22.5 million tons. However, it is easy to understand the differences between these three firms. Google’s activities, largely immaterial, are necessarily less polluting than those of Apple, which manufactures and transports hundreds of millions of products each year around the world. And of course Amazon, whose online business is based on the rapid delivery of tens of thousands of packages.
Blame it on Covid-19
This 40% increase in its emissions in two years, Amazon explains in the report: the Covid-19 has been there, and has had both a huge impact on its e-commerce and cloud activity.
“We have grown our business at an unprecedented rate to meet the needs of our customers during the pandemic. From early 2020 to late 2021, we created more than 750,000 full-time and part-time jobs globally and doubled the size of the distribution network we had built over the past 25 years.” can we read in the report. Which also recalls that the virus has prompted many companies to switch to Amazon Web Services, whose turnover has increased by 37% last year.
Result: a 46% explosion in emissions related to the construction and equipping of buildings (warehouses, data centers, etc.) but also in the use of fossil fuels (21% more).
Rising emissions, falling carbon intensity
Still, an annual assessment of 71.54 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, more than twice the emissions of a country like Sweden, is still a bit of a task. So much so that Amazon puts forward a completely different metric than its raw emissions. The company prefers to talk about its “carbon intensity” which has indeed decreased by 1.9% in 2021.
Carbon intensity, késaco? In the case of Amazon, this indicator ” measures total carbon dioxide emissions, in grams of CO2e (CO2 equivalent), per dollar of gross merchandise sales (GMS). In other words, the multinational considers that the net increase in its emissions must be tempered by the exceptional growth it experienced during the Covid years. And is justified in the report: When companies invest in new products and services and grow their business substantially, the focus should not just be on absolute carbon emissions, but also on reducing carbon intensity. Over time, a continued decrease in carbon intensity can lead to a decline in absolute emissions. »
We will let you judge the relevance of this indicator, which gauges the ecological performance of a company in terms of its economic growth. Still, Amazon still aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040, and has launched several initiatives to do so: electrifying its fleet of delivery vehicles, building less polluting buildings, sourcing renewable energy, etc.
Impossible mission ? The company recognizes this, “The challenges we face collectively to achieve carbon neutrality are considerable. Many new technologies show promise in their ability to reduce emissions, but still require significant evolution. We must both invent new solutions, scale them, and drive down the cost of known solutions.”
Vast program for the most polluting GAFAM. Especially when we know that, in the calculation of these 71.54 million tons, Amazon omits an essential data: the climatic impact of the manufacture and use of the hundreds of thousands of products it sells. Because the firm of Jeff Bezos only includes in its calculation the emissions of the products it markets under its own brands. However, these represent only one percent of its total sales!