Amazon's carbon emissions grew by almost a fifth last year as its business was buoyed by a pandemic-related sales spike and an ever-growing shift to online activity.
The mega corp's total footprint for 2020 was a breath-taking 60.64 million metric tonnes of CO2e – up 19 per cent on the year before. The figures, published today, account for its entire global business including total energy consumption, transport costs, and packaging.
However, Amazon said that if you look at the figures differently and measure "carbon intensity", as opposed to absolute figures, then things aren't so bad after all. It argued that, like many industries, when you measure carbon emissions in relation to each buck of gross merchandise sales (GMS), things are actually improving.
"While Amazon's business grew significantly in 2020 and our absolute carbon emissions increased 19 per cent during the same period, our overall carbon intensity decreased 16 per cent, from 122.8 grams of CO2e per dollar of GMS in 2019 to 102.7 grams of CO2e per dollar of GMS in 2020," it said.
What's more, this way of looking at the numbers is backed by "science".
"This carbon intensity value is in line with the targets we are developing through the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), the industry leader in helping companies set science-based emissions reduction targets. Amazon joined SBTi in May 2020 and will publish our science-based targets in 2022, in accordance with SBTi's target setting process."
A scientist close to The Reg was very unimpressed, commenting: “The fact that Amazon’s business is growing is not, in and of itself, helpful to Earth. The fact they pollute less per unit of activity is encouraging, but the bottom line is that they are polluting more this year than they did last year.”
Amazon is a vocal supporter of green issues, setting a Climate Pledge goal of reaching net-zero carbon by 2040 even taking into account anticipated year-on-year growth. It maintains that investment in this area made Amazon the "world's largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in 2020."
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This latest environmental update from Amazon comes as the online giant still tries to recover from a damaging undercover TV report concerning allegations that it has been dumping thousands of unsold goods – including boxes of tech – at its depot in Dunfermline, near Edinburgh.
Opposition politicians in Scotland have called for the matter to be investigated, with one Green MSP calling for all government ties with Amazon – including IT contracts with Amazon Web Services – to be severed.
Although Amazon has strongly denied the allegations, environmental officials in Scotland continue to look into the matter.
In a statement, Jo Zwitserlood, Head of Materials, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), told us: "Like others, SEPA was concerned by national media reports regarding the alleged widespread disposal of products by Amazon. Resource use is a critical component of collective efforts to move towards Net Zero.
"SEPA is reviewing whether there is any potential non-compliance with waste management legislation which SEPA is responsible for enforcing. On review of the information gathered, SEPA will consider whether to follow up with a more formal investigation in accordance with SEPA's published enforcement guidance." ®