Giant retailers, including Amazon and Ikea, have pledged to go green, but their delivery is still pretty dirty. Now buyers can now see how much pollution some of the largest retail companies in the United States are producing when importing goods into the country, thanks to a new report. In 2019, the 15 companies in the report produced almost as much climate pollution as 1.5 million American houses a year.
The report looks at greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from cargo transportation around the world and ranks among the company’s 15 largest polluters. Walmart tops a list that produces more greenhouse gas emissions than a coal-fired power plant would do in a year. Ashley Furniture, Target, Dole and Home Depot round out the top five. Ikea and Amazon ranked 7th and 8th, respectively. Samsung ranked 9th and LG 11th.
Experts have known for some time that maritime transport is responsible for 3% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, but individual retailers responsible for pollution have largely escaped control. But by pulling the curtain back into companies ’carbon footprints, consumers will have more ammunition to demand action to combat climate change.
“This pillar of the corporate emissions portfolio has certainly not been explored,” says Madeline Rose, primary author of a report released today by nonprofit environmental groups Pacific Environment and Stand.earth. “Frankly, when the climate emergency is on our doorstep, we just feel that there needs to be disruption in the information system and more transparency.”
To track corporate emissions, organizations first look for a public database called the Journal of Commerce to identify the largest importers in the United States by volume. They then provided UMAS University (Maritime Advisory Services), which has access to other maritime import databases, referring public information to information they own. Together, they arranged the dealers’ individual deliveries to specific vessels. Based on the ships ’voyage, they were able to estimate fuel consumption and the resulting emissions. Their ratings are likely to be low because researchers were unable to verify all cargo journeys made by franchise and shell companies under different names than the parent companies.
“Because the data is so opaque, they only capture about 20 percent of the market and then extrapolate up from there,” says Dan Rutherford, who leads the aviation and maritime programs for the International Council on Clean Transport and was not involved in the study. “I think it’s appropriate because the data itself isn’t available. But it suggests that we need better rules and transparency. “
The study also does not take into account emissions from ships’ return voyages after unloading. Nor does it target emissions to see where they end. It can be important for coastal communities that end up in port due to pollution going to shore. It is estimated to be 60,000 people die prematurely every year after being exposed to air pollution from shipping. In 2019, the 15 companies mentioned in the new report caused equal amounts of air pollution – including soot, sulfur oxides and nitrous oxide – to tens of millions of cars and trucks.
The investigation is also limited to U.S. imports, although the U.S. is the world’s largest consumer market. Because supply chains can include multiple companies spanning multiple countries, it has been difficult to allocate maritime emissions to any single country. It has made it really difficult to regulate pollution in the sector because it is not clear who should be responsible.
“Here’s another giant case of emissions falling through cracks,” says Jennifer Jacquet, an assistant professor of environmental research at New York University who was not involved in the study. “We knew we needed to do something about shipping, and I don’t think there was a consensus on how to deal with it … at least we can say that IKEA is responsible for some of those emissions.”
Companies like Ikea and Amazon continue to do significant damage to the planet despite their widespread climate promise, as this report shows. Both companies responded Limit statements emphasizing their sustainability commitments, while Walmart, LG and Samsung did not respond to the request for comment. Ikea says it wants to emit more greenhouse gases than by 2030. Amazon is trying to do something similar by 2040, and strives to get more Electric vehicles on the road reduce emissions from deliveries. Rose wants to see more of that idea of how goods move by sea.
“One of the big problems with shipping is that it’s very visible from mind-blowing pollution,” Rose says. “If we don’t get emissions from seagoing ships under control, we won’t solve the climate emergency.”