Amazon and SBTi: challenges in achieving climate goals

Recently, e-commerce giant Amazon was removed from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a UN-backed organization that validates corporate carbon emission reduction goals. In this blog post, we’ll examine why this decision was made, Amazon’s response, and what lessons businesses can take away when setting their own emission reduction goals.

SBTi and Amazon: The Background

In 2019, Amazon committed to either eliminating or offsetting its entire carbon footprint by 2040. To add credibility to this pledge, the company also decided to submit its goals for SBTi approval the following year. However, SBTi recently removed Amazon from its list of companies taking climate action, stating that “the commitment has expired.”

Amazon has repeatedly stated its ongoing efforts to comply with SBTi requirements. The company claims that since their initial commitment, guidelines have changed. Amazon was among hundreds of organizations granted an extension for submitting their goals. They argue that evolving methods make it challenging for complex organizations like them to set meaningful and reliable targets.

Amazon’s sustainability efforts

Despite their setback with SBTi, it’s important to note Amazon’s sustainability initiatives. Emissions have increased by about 40% since 2019, but there was a slight decrease in 2022 due to renewable energy projects coming online. By 2024, Amazon also plans to revise its supply chain standards, requiring suppliers to report carbon dioxide emissions and set reduction goals. This is a critical move in tackling Scope 3 emissions, a major source of Amazon’s overall emissions.

For more insights and advice on involving stakeholders in calculating scope 3 emissions, check out our latest blog post.

Financial implications and future prospects

The situation could have negative financial consequences. Many financial products like sustainable investment funds and ETFs require proof of sustainable business practices. Therefore, this SBTi decision could cause more damage than just hurting the company’s image.

Amazon intends to continue its collaboration with SBTi but also aims to work with other organizations and third parties to set science-based targets. The company’s commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2040 remains intact, so Amazon will likely continue to strive for this goal, even without SBTi endorsement.


Lessons to take away

Amazon’s removal from the SBTi list serves as a reminder that making commitments is just the beginning; the real challenge is setting reliable, realistic goals and achieving them. This experience provides valuable insights for other companies on the same path.

​​The changing climate science and policy landscape demands that companies be flexible and adaptable in formulating sustainability strategies. It’s not enough to just set ambitious goals; companies also need to be prepared to continually update their objectives and methodologies, based on the latest scientific data and best practices. Transparency and regular reporting are also crucial for maintaining stakeholder trust.

Navigating the complexities of various requirements, expectations, and processes can be a challenging task. Our team will help ensure that your company’s sustainability goals are not only ambitious but also achievable.