Driving Carbon Out of Our Business
While Amazon’s 2020 carbon footprint reflects the growth of our business to meet increasing customer demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, we made significant progress in reducing the carbon intensity of our business activities in 2020, following our investments in large-scale, long-term decarbonization solutions. We also saw a decrease in the absolute emissions from purchased electricity—a result of our investments in global renewable energy projects that came online in 2020—despite increasing our buildings square footage to keep pace with our business growth. Our renewable energy investments made Amazon the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in 2020, and we achieved 65% renewable energy across our operations, up from 42% in 2019.
Like many companies and countries in high growth mode, we consider both the absolute tons of carbon in our footprint and the change in our carbon intensity. Our carbon intensity metric quantifies total carbon emissions, in grams of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO₂e), per dollar of gross merchandise sales (GMS). It is a metric commonly used to benchmark performance year over year, as it provides a relative comparison between annual metrics regardless of other changes to our business. This metric is helpful to assess our progress toward our Climate Pledge goal of reaching net-zero carbon by 2040, even as our business grows.
While Amazon’s business grew significantly in 2020 and our absolute carbon emissions increased 19% during the same period, our overall carbon intensity decreased 16%, from 122.8 grams of CO2e per dollar of GMS in 2019 to 102.7 grams of CO2e per dollar of GMS in 2020. This carbon intensity value is in line with the targets we are developing through the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), the industry leader in helping companies set science-based emissions reduction targets. Amazon joined SBTi in May 2020 and will publish our science-based targets in 2022, in accordance with SBTi’s target setting process.
This year-over-year carbon intensity comparison reflects our early progress to decarbonize our operations as we also continue to grow as a company. Nearly half of our carbon intensity improvement is a result of our investments in renewable energy and operational efficiency enhancements. A third of this improvement reflects a shift in customer and employee behavior due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers made fewer trips to our Whole Foods Market stores and other Amazon physical stores in 2020 and shifted to home delivery instead, which generates lower carbon emissions. We also saw less business travel and employee commuting as a result of many of our employees working from home for most of the year.
We also saw a reduction in our carbon intensity at the package fulfillment level, which measures the emissions from our business activities to deliver packages to our customers’ doorsteps. This calculation—measured in grams of CO2e per package delivered—includes the emissions generated by our fulfillment operations where items are picked off the shelf and packages are sorted, the well-to-wheel emissions across our transportation network, and the lifecycle emissions of the packaging we use to protect items during transit. Similar to our overall carbon intensity improvement, this reduction was driven by a combination of our investments in renewable energy to power our fulfillment facilities, efficiencies in our transportation network to deliver packages, and reductions in the packaging materials we use for each package.
It will take several years for the carbon reduction benefits of our investments to be fully reflected in our footprint. While we are still in the early phase of decarbonizing our business, we are pleased to see meaningful progress in several areas. We will continue to rapidly scale our investments in carbon reduction solutions that have large, long-term impacts that will move us forward on our path to net-zero carbon by 2040. As these investments become embedded across our business, our carbon emissions will continue to decouple from our business growth, reflected in our carbon intensity metric. Eventually, we will reach a point where the absolute carbon emissions of our business will drop, even as our business itself grows.
FinancialA nimble, top down financial model that helps us see the big picture and prioritize where we should dive deep.
TransportationWe track the emissions resulting from shipping products to and from warehouses, and to our customers’ homes and other pickup points.
ElectricityWe account for the impacts of the energy consumed by our offices, data centers, and warehouses, as well as the benefits of the renewable energy we generate around the globe.
PackagingWe look carefully at the materials and processes behind all the boxes, mailers, and other packing items Amazon adds to the products we sell.
DevicesWe have a detailed view of our devices' manufacturing, use, and end-of-life phases.
Amazon's Enterprise-Wide Carbon Footprint, 2018-2020
|Carbon Intensity (grams of CO2e per $ of GMS)||2018||2019||2020||YOY%|
|Emission Category (million metric tons CO₂e)||2018||2019||2020||YoY%|
|Emissions from Direct Operations (Scope 1)||4.98||5.76||9.62||+67%|
|Emissions from Purchased Electricity (Scope 2)||4.71||5.50||5.27||-4%|
|Emissions from Indirect Sources (Scope 3)||34.71||39.91||45.75||+15%|
|Corporate purchases and Amazon-branded product emissions (e.g., operating expenses, business travel, and Amazon-branded product manufacturing, use phase, and end-of-life)||11.95||15.41||16.70||+8%|
|Capital goods (e.g. building construction, servers and other hardware, equipment, vehicles)||4.64||8.01||10.52||+31%|
|Other indirect emissions (e.g., third-party transportation, packaging, upstream energy related)||13.89||12.44||15.77||+27%|
|Lifecycle emissions from customer trips to Amazon's physical stores||4.23||4.05||2.77||-32%|
|Amazon's Total Footprint||44.40||51.17||60.64||+19%|
Carbon MethodologyLearn more about the science and technology behind our carbon footprint.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Verification StatementRead the greenhouse gas emissions verification statement from our third-party auditor, Apex.