It is safe to say that most people have heard about Amazon Web Services at least once in their lifetime. Founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos, the company has taken over the nation with its prime membership, top-notch customer service, and comparable prices. The company garners 200 million visits every month, and nearly 1 in 3 people has an Amazon Prime Membership in the USA alone; equating to an astounding 95 million members.
Recently, Amazon has announced the launch of its Clean Energy Accelerator, a project aimed at assisting start-ups with ways to incorporate eco-friendly technology into their businesses. The 5-week program will consist of 10 new companies working in the green energy sector. Amazon will guide these startups along the sustainability path via ways of training, connections, technological options, and marketing.
Amazon aims to utilize its reach for the betterment of the environment in order to aid in the growth and prosperity of these new startups. By investing in these companies not just with money, but time, technology, and ideas, the potential outcome could be vastly influential.
In 2019, Amazon co-founded The Climate Pledge to reach carbon neutrality by 2040. The company has made substantial efforts to achieve these goals largely by way of renewable energy implementations.
Since 2011, Amazon has executed 206 global energy projects to help address the growing concerns of climate change. The company has predominantly implemented wind and solar energy and has offset the CO2 equivalence of roughly 200 million miles of truck deliveries.
Shane Owenby, the Vice President of Energy at Amazon, says, “Investing in renewable energy is one of the many actions Amazon is taking as part of The Climate Pledge, a commitment to be net-zero carbon by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement. This commitment will require innovation from large scale, established organizations to startups across the energy industry. This is why we are supporting clean tech founders to accelerate deployment of their innovations through programs like the AWS Clean Energy Accelerator.”
Can Amazon Be Sustainable?
There has been an influx of individuals vowing to boycott Amazon due to the believed poor work conditions, vast operational scale, and overall environmental damage. This vow has gained traction and has been trending on the internet for the past few years.
That poses the question, is it even possible for a company such as Amazon to truly be sustainable?
Sustainability is most commonly defined as having three pillars; environment, economic and social. For Amazon to be considered completely sustainable, the company would have to fulfill all three of these pillars. This poses a moral dilemma for many that isn’t so easy to answer. Do you support a large company such as Amazon who might hurt local economies? They have the resources for carbon neutrality, and that is great. But they also have become so large that customers are now purchasing from them rather than spending their money locally. This can affect the multiplier effect, which is when money circulates within a given economy to aid in stability. When you spend your money at Amazon, money leaves your local economy and enters that local to the HQ of the company. This ultimately impacts the economic pillar of sustainability.
Additionally, if the company does meet its 2040 environmental goals but doesn’t address any concerns, such as the alleged poor working conditions, then the company will meet the environmental pillar, but not the social pillar.
With the potential for both the economic and social pillar to go unfilled, it is safe to say that Amazon would be eco-friendly, but not truly sustainable.
All considered, many people do not have the privilege to shop elsewhere. For many rural communities throughout the US, Amazon provides them with millions of options that can be delivered far quicker than traditional mail. They also provide competitive pricing for individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
So, what can come from this? With the implementation of Amazon's pledge and the new Clean Energy Accelerator, the company might eventually take steps toward addressing the economic and social aspects of sustainability. Even if they do not address this, the company isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and will most likely only grow larger. At the very least, going carbon neutral can have a massive positive outcome on the company’s future and the future of the environment.
Furthermore, the ripple effect that can arise from working with these 10 startups has the potential to generate even more sustainability efforts down the road—leading to a truly bright and promising future.