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Amazon and other corporate climate pledges

Zero credibility

Corporations want the public to know that they take the climate crisis seriously. Most major corporations have taken a public “climate pledge,” promising to reach “net zero” carbon emissions by a future date. Amazon is so into this concept that it started “The Climate Pledge” in 2019, encouraging other companies to pledge to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040. Amazon even bought the naming rights to the home of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken and called it “Climate Pledge Arena.”

Is there anything behind the pledges?

But it’s easy to make a pledge to reach “net zero.” It’s much harder to create a credible plan to reach that goal and then execute that plan. Beyond mere pledges, are these companies demonstrating real leadership on climate issues by taking meaningful action?

Nestlé, for example, claims that it “will halve our greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.” But its plan received very poor marks from the NewClimate Institute. Nestlé’s net zero by 2050 pledge includes “no defined target for own emission reductions.” The company further states it wants to remove 13 metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere by 2030 “but does not specify how.” The NewClimate Institute report estimates that the plan will only reduce Nestlé’s emissions by 18% by 2030. Nestlé’s plan is rated “very low” for transparency and integrity.

Amazon’s plan: low transparency and integrity

Amazon, despite founding The Climate Pledge, fares only slightly better. The NewClimate Institute report notes that its pledge to achieve net zero emissions by 2040 “remains unsubstantiated without any explicit reduction target for the company’s own emissions.” (In 2020, Amazon’s carbon emissions grew by 19%.)

Amazon is aggressively seeking to decarbonize its energy use, acquiring fleets of electric vehicles and procuring large amounts of energy from renewable sources. But it provides little details on “Scope 3” emissions, which includes emissions from the goods sold by Amazon. Amazon’s plan is rated “low” for transparency and integrity. Amazon did not provide a substantive response to these criticisms.

This is excerpted from an article called “Zero Credibility” in Popular Information, a news site founded by Judd Legum “for people who give a damn.”  One subscriber describes it thus; If you like your news to be succinct, sourced, and well-written, the Popular Information newsletter is the one for you. 

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