Amazon, which delivers more than 10 billion items a year on fuel-guzzling planes, vans and trucks, vowed Thursday to cut the amount of damage it does to the environment and report its greenhouse gas emissions regularly. The online shopping giant has faced pressure from its own employees to do more to combat climate change and rely less on fossil fuels. Several dozen workers this year pushed for a shareholder resolution that would require the company to disclose its carbon footprint and wean itself off fossil fuels.
The resolution failed to pass, but Amazon promised to disclose its climate footprint sometime this year. Company founder and CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled some of the details before a Washington, D.C., audience Thursday morning. To cut emissions, Amazon says it has ordered 100,000 electric delivery vans that will start hitting the road in 2021. And it plans to have 100% of its energy use come from solar panels and other renewable energy by 2030. That's up from 40% today, according to the Associated Press. The company also said it would put $100 million toward reforestation projects.
The announcement comes a day before more than 1,500 Amazon employees plan to walk off their jobs as part of the Global Climate Strike, in which thousands of people around the world are expected to demand more aggressive policies to slow global warming.
The Amazon worker group said on Twitter: "Amazon's Climate Pledge is a huge win for @AMZNforClimate & we're thrilled at what workers have achieved in under a year. But we know it's not enough. The Paris Agreement, by itself, won't get us to a livable world. Amazon still has work to do: halting its support of the fossil fuel industry, stopping donations to climate-denying politicians and think tanks, and stopping enabling the oppression of climate refugees."
Amazon's massive size means it has the potential to influence lots of other companies — both suppliers and competitors — to be environmentally proactive.
"Making an ambitious commitment is the first step for any company wanting to reduce its carbon footprint and make meaningful change," Elizabeth Sturcken, managing director at the Environmental Defense Fund's EDF+Business unit, said in a statement. "We're already seeing increased pressure on companies from investors and customers, but employee engagement from Amazon could be the tipping point that really moves companies towards meaningful climate action."
During a question-and-answer session with reporters, Bezos expressed his support for the group's work but said he doesn't agree with all its goals, CNET's Ben Fox Rubin reported.
Bezos said Amazon would continue working with oil and gas companies, saying such companies should have access to Amazon's tools, such as its cloud software, as they work to transition to more sustainable practices.
Bezos also said that Amazon's move to one-day shipping by default for its Prime members (a group that includes more than half of U.S. households) would save on emissions, instead of increasing them, because it would force the company to keep inventory closer to its destination.
He said Amazon will review its political donations to see if it is sending money to climate deniers.