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Is Amazon’s new eco-label another greenwash attempt?

Amazon has launched a new eco badge on its website, which it claims will help “you discover and shop for more sustainable products.” Yet, the ‘Climate Pledge Friendly’ badge has been awarded to everything from single-use batteries to disposable wipes.

So is this another greenwashing exercise from Amazon?

Amazon shoppers can now search for ‘Climate Pledge Friendly’ items. This identifies products sold through the site that hold third-party certifications, from Fairtrade and GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) to Rainforest Alliance and FSC.

However alongside some more ethical brands  a wide range of environmentally unsound products have received the Climate Pledge Friendly badge. Most of these have in fact only been certified by Amazon’s own ‘Compact by Design’ accreditation.

‘Compact by Design’ certifies products for ‘efficient’ use of packaging, instead of considering the sustainability of the item itself. Ethical Consumer found that items certified under the scheme contained environmentally damaging ingredients from unsustainably sourced palm oil to factory farmed meat.

Many of those approved were also inherently wasteful, such as individually packaged teeth whitening strips and foot repair masks, facial cleansing wipes, and water filters

The online giant has already been forced to remove the sustainability badge from some flushable wipes and Donald Trump printed novelty toilet paper, after the Guardian questioned its approach. The company claimed that it had awarded the accreditation to these items by mistake.

Amazon’s climate greenwash

It is not the first time that Amazon has been accused of greenwash over its environmental approach. In September 2019, the company announced a new corporate ‘Climate Pledge’ to which Amazon was the first signatory. The pledge commits companies to having net zero carbon emissions by 2040. Siemens and Mercedes-Benz are amongst those to sign up.

Yet, Greenpeace’s analysis concluded that Amazon’s own Climate Pledge lacked detail on how the company planned to reduce its footprint. Critically, Amazon also only included its own direct operations in the pledge - excluding the carbon footprint of its global supply chain, which accounts for 75% of its carbon footprint.

Critics have also pointed out that Amazon’s commitment is seriously undermined by the company’s continuing sale of AI technologies to Shell, BP and others for ongoing fossil fuel extraction.

Amazon says that its new label “supports The Climate Pledge”. But Will McCallum, Greenpeace UK senior campaigner, points out that “Amazon sells millions of products and this latest initiative covers just a tiny fraction of the total."

“By certifying only a limited range of goods, Amazon is implicitly admitting that the rest of its business model isn't up to scratch.”

Indeed, while items containing unsustainable palm oil and factory farmed meat apparently meet its Climate Pledge, Amazon clearly has a very long way to go.

Ethical Consumer are calling for a boycott of Amazon over its tax avoidance.