Why Doesn’t Amazon Want to Disclose Its Carbon Footprint?

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Just how environmentally-friendly is Amazon.com?

Sure, the company has a page dedicated to how it’s “constantly looking for ways to further reduce [its] environmental impact,” boasting that “online shopping is inherently more environmentally friendly than traditional retailing” and linking to a study to back that up.

It talks about its Kaizen program “named for the Japanese term meaning ‘change for the better’,” as the website helpfully explains. The program allows employees to suggest more ways in which the company can be environmentally conscious.

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But none of that explains why Amazon asked shareholders to reject a proposal to participate in a study that would reveal its carbon footprint to the world.

Calvert Investments filed a shareholder proposal earlier this year to urge Amazon shareholders to vote yes to joining almost 5,000 other companies taking part in its annual Carbon Disclosure Project questionnaire, which would involve Amazon having to release firm data relating to the carbon footprint of its data centers, Kindle devices, and business risks related to climate change.

This would seem to not be a big deal to the Kaizen-friendly company… except that Amazon urged shareholders to reject the proposal, and on June 7th, the shareholders did as they were told, ensuring that the data remains secret.

But why?

According to environmental journalist Leon Kaye, the answer lies in the way Amazon operates:

“Amazon’s attitude towards carbon disclosure clearly stems from its business model. Most books the company ships are not technically part of its inventory; it does not manufacture the Kindle; unlike companies such as Walmart, it does not have its own trucking fleet; the millions of items for sale on Amazon are not on its balance sheet; and it leases, not owns, most of the space—30 million square feet in total—necessary for its operations. Hence any concern over climate change is the prerogative of its suppliers and vendors.”

The truth may be that, while the green credentials of the portions of its business over which it has ultimate control may be impeccable, the entirety of Amazon’s world isn’t quite as green as it could be… and it’s not quite ready to let everyone know that just yet.

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