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Amazon Launches Climate Label to Help Customers Make Greener Choices

Amazon Launches Climate Label to Help Customers Make Greener Choices
Amazon Employees for Climate Justice walk out and rally at the company's headquarters to demand that leaders take action on climate change in Seattle, Washington on Sept. 20, 2019. JASON REDMOND / AFP via Getty Images

The world's largest online retailer is making it slightly easier for customer to make eco-conscious choices.

Amazon announced Wednesday that approximately 25,000 products will receive a "Climate Pledge Friendly" designation to guide customers toward products that are helping the retail giant meet its commitment to be carbon neutral in 20 years, as Reuters reported.

Amazon noted that the label will apply to a broad range of products. In a press release, the company said, "Climate Pledge Friendly selection includes grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics products, as well as items from a range of other categories — from brands including Seventh Generation, Burt's Bees Baby, and HP Inc. Climate Pledge Friendly products are clearly labeled in shopping results, have additional sustainability information on the product page, and are featured in a dedicated section of our store."

Amazon has been under increasing pressure from its own employees who have risked their own careers to speak out against the company's climate policies. The Seattle-based company has an enormous carbon footprint due to its commitment to speedy deliveries, its transportation emissions and its data centers, as Reuters reported.

A paper in Environmental Science & Technology, a scientific journal published by the American Chemical Society, found that going to a physical store actually has a lower carbon footprint than shopping on Amazon. That's due to the fact that people tend to buy just a few items online. When they go to a store, they are more likely to stock up and reduce the need for further trips. Also, the demand for faster shipping leads to inefficient packing and delivery routes, as CNN reported.

Environmental activists and people working to make delivery systems more environmentally friendly gave a lukewarm reception to Amazon's announcement and expressed concern that the label was a bit of "green washing."

"Some of the language is a little bit deceiving," said Alexis Bateman, director of the MIT Sustainable Supply Chains Initiative, as The Seattle Times reported. "Not to minimize the value of animal welfare, fair trade or fair wages." He added that just because a company offers fair wages does not mean it is eco-conscious or reducing its carbon footprint.

"That said, the fact that Amazon is doing anything in this space is just awesome, because when Amazon acts, then the pressure will be diffused across every actor that sells on their platform and is in competition with them, the biggest retailers and e-tailers of the world," Bateman added.

Other activists echoed the sentiment, viewing the label as a burden passed on to the consumer when the company could share the environmental impact of all its products or cut ties with companies that are not eco-conscious.

"While Amazon's sustainable shopping site is a good first step, it's not the level of ambition needed," said Jenny Ahlen, director of EDF+Business, a branch of the Environmental Defense Fund, in a blog post, as The Seattle Times reported. "Shoppers might be able to look through products with certifications, but what about the hundreds of thousands of other products sold on Amazon that don't have certifications. How will shoppers know what their impacts are?"

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