Amazon says its carbon footprint saw a huge rise last year

Data center server room lit with green lights
(Image credit: Shutterstock/Tomasz Wozniak)

Amazon has revealed its carbon footprint rose 18% last year, hitting around 71.54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).

For reference, this is roughly equivalent to the numbers produced by countries such as Austria and Bangladesh and is a good bit more than the 47.50 million metric tonnes of CO2 produced by the US government last year.

According to the company's latest sustainability report, Amazon's 2021 numbers also represent a pretty mammoth increase compared to its pre-pandemic output; up 40% since 2019, when carbon emissions sat at 51.17 million tonnes, but before the pandemic pushed the ecommerce industry to new heights. 

What's driving the surge?

The rise was partly driven by Amazon doubling the size of the fulfillment network in 2021 as well as by an expanded data center network.

The eye-popping number comes despite former CEO Jeff Bezos pledging in 2019 that Amazon would be fully carbon neutral by 2040, and calling for other organizations to do the same.

It's important to note that the figures don't include emissions produced from manufacturing any of the third-party products that Amazon sells, so this may not be giving a full picture of Amazon's real environmental cost. 

However, Amazon may be at least becoming more carbon efficient, its "carbon Intensity, the number of grams of CO₂ emissions per dollar of gross merchandise sales (GMS) fell -1.9%.

This could mean that the tech giant is delivering products and operating its warehouses, data centers, and offices more sustainability, however, it's unlikely to make a huge amount of difference to total C02 output if the business continues to expand. 

But Amazon is not the only big tech firm that is producing huge amounts of C02.

Microsoft saw its carbon footprint rise 21% to nearly 13.8 million metric tons last year, up from just 11.2 million metric tons of carbon in 2020.

Amazon is piling some of its profits back into sustainability however, the company last year invested in 100,000 electric vehicles from electric automaker Rivian as part of efforts to decarbonize its fleet. 

“This year-over-year carbon intensity comparison reflects our early progress to decarbonize our operations as we also continue to grow as a company,” said an Amazon spokeperson. 

“Nearly half of our carbon intensity improvement is a result of our investments in renewable energy and operational efficiency enhancements.”

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Will McCurdy has been writing about technology for over five years. He has a wide range of specialities including cybersecurity, fintech, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, cloud computing, payments, artificial intelligence, retail technology, and venture capital investment. He has previously written for AltFi, FStech, Retail Systems, and National Technology News and is an experienced podcast and webinar host, as well as an avid long-form feature writer.