The contrast between how the two largest retailers – Amazon and Walmart – engage on sustainability is on full display right now.
Every April, Walmart convenes hundreds of suppliers, associates and partners at an annual meeting to evaluate progress against the company’s aspirational sustainability goals. A major focus this year was celebrating progress on Project Gigaton: in just two years, more than 1,000 suppliers have signed on to the initiative and collectively avoided 93 million metric tons of emissions towards the billion-ton GHG reduction goal.
At the exact same time as Walmart’s annual meeting was taking place, thousands of Amazon employees called on the company’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, and board of directors to develop and release a company-wide climate plan. To date, nearly 6,800 employees have signed on to a powerful letter pointing out that Amazon’s action on climate has not been close to the level of ambition and innovation that world expects and requires of Amazon — the world’s largest internet retailer and cloud computing company.
Amazon has taken some important steps, by committing to release its carbon footprint; establishing Amazon Day, announcing Shipment Zero; making strides on cleaner logistics; supporting the Clean Power Plan; and, setting a goal of 100% renewable energy usage for its global infrastructure. However, as Amazon’s employees call out, it needs a comprehensive plan that boldly, swiftly and transparently provides the leadership and action needed to meet the climate challenge:
Amazon has the resources and scale to spark the world’s imagination and redefine what is possible and necessary to address the climate crisis. We believe this is a historic opportunity for Amazon to stand with employees and signal to the world that we’re ready to be a climate leader.
To Amazon’s admirable employees, I say thank you. I hope other employees concerned about the climate crisis follow your lead.
To Amazon’s executives, there’s a lot to learn from your largest retail competitor. Walmart didn’t get to where it is on sustainability overnight. In fact, 15 years ago, Walmart was at a crossroads – slowing growth, low public opinion and near zero activity on environmental and social performance. That’s when former CEO Lee Scott saw an opportunity for leadership: He set visionary long-term goals, followed up with strong execution, and publicly reported on progress. Scott changed the trajectory of the company and put Walmart on a path to becoming a widely recognized leader in sustainability.To @Amazon’s admirable employees, I say thank you. I hope other employees concerned about the climate crisis follow your lead. Click To Tweet
Here’s how Bezos and the Amazon board can make their employees’ vision a reality:
- Commit to bold leadership and action. Make a climate plan that includes these four strategies: setting goals based in science; collaborating for scale and impact; advocating for smart environmental policy and accelerating environmental innovation. Go after the biggest opportunities for impact – improving products you sell, delivering them efficiently and being powered by 100% clean energy.
- Set the standard for sustainable products and lead with Amazon Basics. Amazon can set the specification to reduce climate and other impacts on each and every one of its private brands – which represent tens of billions of dollars of sales. Detergent is a great example – Amazon is offering Presto bio based detergent that is EPA Safer Choice certified. All of Amazon’s private label products could be best-in-class on sustainability – and they should be. Amazon could also consider encouraging its vast network of suppliers to step up on sustainability, like Walmart did with Project Gigaton. The Supply Chain Solutions Center helps suppliers on any part of the sustainability journey.
- Put sustainability and transparency at the heart your strategy. Amazon set a new bar for customer satisfaction with fast delivery of the things that people want. However, that fast delivery has a huge environmental impact. Shipment Zero is an admirable goal, but execution will require a comprehensive plan, and immediate action. Plus, companies must talk about their sustainability goals and timelines, or else who can know if they’re making progress on them? Amazon brings price and product quality transparency to online shopping. We expect the same for sustainability performance
- Engage your customers – they’ve been waiting. Amazon has a unique platform to engage consumers like no other company. One in three Americans have an Amazon Prime account. Amazon could use its market share – and its tech – for good and incentivize actions that drive planetary progress by suppliers and customers, who are eager for companies to take a social stand.
- Leverage your strengths – Amazon is a world leader in innovation and technology – ecommerce, cloud computing and artificial intelligence. The same technologies that you are developing and using to change how we live and work, can and should also be used to change the way we measure environmental impacts and protect the planet. Lead the way.
- Advocate for smart climate policy. Even if Amazon accomplishes steps 1-5, it won’t be enough to stabilize the climate. Only public policy can deliver the emissions reductions necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – and Amazon’s voice is powerful and needed in statehouses and on Capitol Hill.
Engraining sustainability at the heart of ecommerce is the smart move, the right move, and the required move. Your employees, consumers and the world will be better because of it.
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