Retail giants take a 'non-linear' path to sustainable fulfillment and delivery

North America’s largest e-retailers — Inc. and Walmart Inc. — are taking steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their fulfillment operations by adding fleets of electric vehicles and electric flying drones. But a report Amazon issued this week shows that pandemic-driven demand for ecommerce caused that retailer’s carbon footprint to grow 18% in 2021.

However, measured another way, Amazon made progress in its environmental impact. Amazon says its “carbon density” — a measure of total carbon emissions per dollar of gross merchandise sales — decreased 1.9% in 2021. And 2021 was the third straight year Amazon’s carbon density shrank, the retailer says.

Amazon (No. 1 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000) attributes the increasing carbon output to a rise in 2021 web sales. The total value of goods Amazon sold to U.S. consumers, often referred to as gross merchandise value or GMV, increased 17.3% in 2021 to $364.4 billion.

The spokesperson also said Amazon now powers 85% of its operations using renewable energy across its business and is on a path to powering itself using 100% renewable energy by 2025. Amazon has been the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy since 2020, the spokesperson added.

When Amazon signed onto The Climate Pledge in 2019, it ordered 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from Rivian Automotive Inc. The retailer recently started deploying those vans and plans to have thousands operating across more than 100 major U.S. cities by the end of this year.

Amazon buys electric vans

Rivian, sustainability

Amazon plans to deploy 100,000 Rivian electric delivery vans across the U.S. by 2030.

In response to what it sees as growing consumer concerns about environmental sustainability, Amazon recently started deploying its first batch of Rivian electric delivery vans in more than a dozen cities in late July 2022. Those cities include Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Nashville, San Diego and Seattle. The deployment was part of a 2019 deal between Rivian and Amazon’s logistics unit.

Amazon and Rivian plan to bring thousands more of the custom electric delivery vehicles to more than 100 cities by the end of this year and 100,000 across the U.S. by 2030, Amazon said in a statement.

Sustainable by 2040

“We are committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 as part of The Climate Pledge, which we co-founded and became the first signatory,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Digital Commerce 360. “We committed to this knowing the path forward would not be linear, and would require investment, innovation, and collaboration — and we continue to be energized and laser focused on fighting climate change and decarbonizing our operations.”

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