Can Amazon deliver on plan to slash carbon footprint of shipments?

With Amazon delivering packages to millions of customers around the world every day, the company knows it needs to do more to cut its carbon footprint if it’s to deliver on its commitment to sustainability.

Complementing current efforts such as frustration-free packaging, solar and wind-farm construction, and investments in recycling programs, the ecommerce behemoth this week unveiled Shipment Zero, an initiative aimed at further enhancing its green credentials.

Outlining the plan in a blog post, Dave Clark, the company’s senior vice president of world operations, said that with improvements in electric vehicles, aviation bio fuels, reusable packaging, and renewable energy, the company can now see a path to net zero carbon shipments to customers.

The first step, Clark said, is to make 50 percent of all Amazon shipments to customers carbon-free by 2030.

The executive admitted that it “won’t be easy to achieve this goal,” but added that “it’s worth being focused and stubborn on this vision” as it’s “committed to seeing it through.”

It may seem like a bold proposition for a company that can still send out small items in oversized boxes packed with plastic SealedAir bags, but presumably Shipment Zero will work to bring such practices to an end.

To enable everyone to keep tabs on its progress toward its latest green goal, Amazon plans to share details of its company-wide carbon footprint later this year. Clark said the data will be taken from an advanced and recently developed scientific model capable of accurately mapping Amazon’s carbon footprint, which will also help it to identify ways to reduce carbon use in its operations. He said the company currently has more than 200 scientists, engineers, and product designers focused on finding new ways to leverage the company’s scale for the good of customers and the planet.

Amazon’s efforts to be kinder to the environment will of course be welcomed by those concerned about the longevity of the planet, but there are clearly challenges along the way. Earlier this month, for example, a report from Greenpeace accused the company of significantly expanding its Amazon Web Services data centers in Virginia without adding any supply of renewable energy, meaning it’s having to use more so-called “dirty” electricity than it otherwise might have done. The company responded by saying it’s committed to its goal of running its global operation using 100-percent renewable energy, and accused Greenpeace of using inaccurate data in its report.

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