In May 2020, Ethical Consumer sent Amazon a questionnaire seeking information on how the company reported on its environmental impact. No response was received. A search of the company’s corporate website brought up the company’s 2019 Sustainability: Thinking Big report, which was used to rate Amazon’s environmental reporting against key indicators.

An environmental policy was deemed necessary to report on a company's environmental performance and set targets for reducing its impacts in the future. A strong policy would:

1. Include two future, quantified environmental targets

The report included the following quantified targets, all related to the company’s net zero carbon commitments:
net zero carbon across Amazon by 2040
investing in wind and solar to reach 80% renewable energy across all business operations by 2024.
investing in wind and solar to reach 100% renewable energy across all business operations by 2030.
50% of all shipments net zero carbon by 2030.

2. Demonstrate that the company had a reasonable understanding of its main environmental impacts, which for electronic goods companies needed to include at least a discussion of toxics, transportation, energy use and sourcing of raw materials

The report discussed the company’s efforts in relation to carbon emissions, renewable energy, transportation, packaging, energy use at fulfilment centres and offices, water saving, sale of sustainable products, and limiting the use of toxic chemicals in Amazon-owned personal care and household brands, circular economy, The report did not discuss the sourcing of raw materials and toxic chemicals in relation to its electronics brands.

3. Be dated within two years
The report was published in 2019 and covered 2018.

4. Have its environmental data independently verified
The carbon emission data in the report had been verified by Bureau Veritas but not the other environmental data in the report.

Amazon met criteria 1 and 3. It therefore received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for Environmental Reporting and lost half a mark in this category.

Reference:

Sustainability: Thinking Big (2019)

In October 2019 Ethical Consumer viewed the Greenpeace Report ‘Clicking Clean Virginia - The Dirty Energy Powering Data Center Alley’ dated February 2019.

The Clicking Clean reports benchmark global internet platforms and major data center operators on their use of renewable and dirty energy within their data centres. According to the 2019 report 70 percent of the world’s internet traffic is claimed to pass through just one of Virginia’s counties, and dramatic expansion increases demand in coal and natural gas. Less than 5 percent of power generation in Virginia comes from renewable sources.

The report stated, “Since 2012, more than 20 major tech companies have committed to power their global operations with renewable energy.”

“Despite 100% renewable commitments that have had significant impact in driving renewables in other markets, Virginia is an important reminder that utilities will only begin to scale up renewable generation when large customers seriously pursue their commitments”.

"AWS committed in November of 2014 to use 100 percent renewable energy for its global AWS
operations . However, unlike other companies, AWS has not included a deadline to meet its 100 percent
goal . In 2015 and 2016, AWS signed contacts for six solar projects in Virginia as well as a 72-megawatt
wind project in North Carolina to deliver a total of 132 megawatts of renewable energy to the Dominion
grid (which powers the lion’s share of AWS’s Virginia-based data centers) . However, since November
2016, AWS has not signed any new renewable contracts anywhere and has in fact withdrawn from a
previously announced contract for a large new wind farm in Ohio. While AWS continues to claim it
reached 50 percent renewable energy usage in January 2018, the company has remained notoriously
opaque when it comes to publicly reporting information about its current energy use and how fast it is
growing, making it difficult to assess whether its contracts for renewable energy are keeping up with
its rapidly growing data center energy demand . In Virginia, where AWS’s cloud touches the ground
more than anywhere else, it’s matching just 8 percent of its demand with renewable power".

The company lost a whole mark under Climate Change, being one of the worst performing companies in the report.

Reference:

Clicking Clean Virginia 2019 (February 2019)

In 2015 Ethical Consumer viewed the Climate Count's website www.climatecounts.org. The organisation was a nonprofit organisation launched in collaboration with Clean Air-Cool Planet. The organisation annually scored companies on the basis of their voluntary action to reverse climate change. Climate Counts use a 0-to-100 point scale and 22 criteria to determine if companies had:
* MEASURED their climate "footprint"
* REDUCED their impact on global warming
* SUPPORTED (or suggest intent to block) progressive climate legislation
* Publicly DISCLOSED their climate actions clearly and comprehensively
In 2015, Amazon received the bottom 'stuck' rating for not making any meaningful action on climate change.

Change from previous year's score: -11
Review: 0/22 points. Amazon.com had not made efforts to measure its companywide impact on global warming (i.e., its greenhouse gas emissions or climate footprint).
Reduce: 8/56 points. Amazon.com had taken basic steps to reduce the company's energy use.
Policy Stance: 0/10 points. Amazon.com had provided no public information that supports public policy that addresses climate change.
Report: 1/12 points. Amazon.com had made some public information available on its efforts to address global warming.

As a result of its low rating Amazon lost a whole mark under Ethical Consumer's Climate Change category.

In June 2020, a search for any more recent Climate Counts score cards did not find any results.

Reference:

Climate counts 2015 (23 November 2015)

In May 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed a page on AWS' website entitled 'AWS Energy', which advertised the company's products and services to the energy industry.
The page included case studies on how fossil fuel giants BP and Shell had used AWS in their operations.
As a result, the company lost half a mark under the Climate Change category.

Reference:

aws.amazon.com (2020)

In May 2020, Ethical Consumer searched Amazon's website for its policy on the use of toxic chemicals in clothing, Amazon sold a number of own-brand clothing products.

Many of the processes involved in the manufacture of clothing, especially the production of man made fibres and dying of fabrics, release numerous hazardous substances that have a significant negative environmental impact. As the issue was considered to be an industry wide problem all clothing companies were marked down under pollution and toxics unless: they used 100% sustainably sourced materials (i.e. organic, recycled or cotton sourced under the Better Cotton Initiative); or were listed as a leader in the Greenpeace Detox campaign; or had a turnover of less than £10.2 million and were providing an environmental alternative.

Amazon was not found to meet any of this criteria, it therefore received Ethical Consumer’s worst rating for its toxic chemicals policy for clothing and lost a full mark in this category.

Reference:

Our materials and commitments: Amazon chemicals policy (2020)

In May 2020, Ethical Consumer searched the Amazon website for the company's policy on the use of potentially hazardous chemicals BFRs and PVC and/or phthalates.

Amazon manufactured and sold electronics products. A toxics policy was deemed necessary for all electronics companies, as these substances were widely used by electronics companies and had a significant negative environmental impact when released after disposal.

A strong policy on toxics would include publicly disclosed data on the use of hazardous chemicals such as BFRs and PVC and/or phthalates; as well as clear, dated targets for ending their use.

A search of the company’s website in April 2020 brought up a web page titled Our materials and commitments and the company’s 2019 Sustainability: Thinking Big report, which were used to rate Amazon’s toxic chemicals policy.

The report and web page contained the Amazon Chemicals Policy, which applied to Amazon-owned baby, household cleaning, personal care, and beauty brands. However, no policy covering the use of toxic chemicals in its electronics products was found.

As Amazon had no policy on the use of toxic chemicals in electronics, it received Ethical Consumer’s worst rating for its toxic chemicals policy for electronics and lost a full mark under the Pollution and toxics category.

Reference:

Our materials and commitments: Amazon chemicals policy (2020)

In May 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Amazon website and found that the company sold a number of products required under British regulations to have a certain level of fire resistance, such as furniture.

Ethical Consumer looked for the company’s policy on the use of chemicals such as brominated flame retardants (BFRs), but no mention of any related policies could be found. Due to the widespread use of toxic chemicals in products to increase their fire resistance, in the absence of a statement to the contrary it was assumed by Ethical Consumer that the company was using such products.

Ethical Consumer also saw that the company sold products made from PVC. This material had been criticised by environmental campaign groups such as Greenpeace the for its negative environmental impact in production, use and disposal.

No policies could be found related to the use of or phase out of PVC.

A strong policy on toxics would include publicly disclosed data on the use of hazardous chemicals such as BFRs and PVC, as well as clear, dated targets for ending their use.

The company therefore lost a whole mark under Ethical Consumer's Pollution and Toxics category.

Reference:

https://www.amazon.co.uk (16 July 2019)

In May 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Amazon website, notably the 'Responsible Sourcing' page on the 'Sustainability' section, for its timber sourcing policy, but no policy was found.
A timber policy was expected for mpanies for which wood and paper is significant part of product offering; Amazon owned a number of brands producing products that contained wood and paper.

Ethical Consumer's timber sourcing ranking required companies scoring a 'best' to cover six of the below issues:
1. Having a timber sourcing policy that covers all timber and timber-derived products
2. the exclusion of illegal timber or that sourced from unknown sources and...
3. ...a discussion on how a company ensures/ implements this
4. clear targets for sourcing timber from sustainably managed sources
5. a discussion of a good minimum standard
6. preference given to certified sources
7. a discussion about tropical hardwoods (THW) and the percentage of THW sourced that are FSC certified
8. involvement with a multi-stakeholder initiative or bridging programme such as the World Wildlife Fund- Global Forest Trade Network
9. use of reclaimed or recycled wood/ paper
10. a high total percentage (50%+) of FSC certified timber sourced by the company.

Amazon met non of the above criteria and therefore received Ethical Consumer’s worst rating for its timber policy and lost a whole mark under Habitats and Resources.

Reference:

https://www.amazon.com/ (13 August 2018)

In May 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed Amazon’s SEC Filing SD form filed in May 2019 for details of the company’s policy on conflict minerals. The eastern portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has long been the centre of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. The revenue from the illegal mining and trading of the DRC's natural resources has been exploited to fund armed conflicts, and serious human rights abuses are connected to those conflicts and to the mines for certain ores. The ores are identified as conflict minerals and the metals that were derived from them (namely, tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold) exist in many consumer products including electronics. Ethical Consumer expected all companies manufacturing electronics to have a policy addressing the issue.

Ethical Consumer expected companies to have a policy that commited to conflict free sourcing, while continuing to source from the DRC region. Amazon’s report stated:
“We are committed to avoiding the use of minerals that have fueled conflict, and we expect our suppliers to support our efforts to identify the origin of gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum used in products that we manufacture or contract to manufacture."

However, no evidence was found of a commitment to continuing to source from the DRC region.

Amazon was a member of the Responsible Minerals Initiative

As Amazon had not fulfilled the essential criterion of having a stated commitment to continuing to source from the DRC region, it received Ethical Consumer’s Worst Rating for Conflict Minerals and lost full marks under the Human Rights and Habitats and Resources categories.

Reference:

Form SD (May 2019)

A web search, conducted by Ethical Consumer in July 2019, revealed that The Book Depository, owned by Amazon.com, was selling paper products apparently not certified by the FSC or from other sustainable sources.

Reference:

www.bookdepository.com/ (23 August 2018)

In May 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed Amazon’s website for a palm oil policy. The company owned a number of brands producing both food and cosmetic products with palm oil-derived ingredients.

The company was not found to be a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

The following statement was found relating to the company’s use of palm oil: “Our approach is to promote the use of sustainably-certified palm oil in our Private Brands food products. We ask our Private Brands suppliers to source palm oil that is sustainably certified. We are starting with Amazon-owned Private Brands food products in North America and across Europe, where our goal is to source 100% sustainable palm oil by the end of 2020”

This commitment was considered to be insufficient, as it did not specify the volumes of the palm oil used, nor did it specify the certification schemes it aimed to use, nor did it report on the proportions of certified palm oil used historically.

Overall, Amazon received Ethical Consumer’s Worst Rating for Palm Oil Policy and Practice and lost a full mark in the Palm Oil category.

Reference:

amazon.com (2020)