Amazon saw its carbon emissions increase by 18pc in 2021

2 Aug 2022

Image: © Sundry Photography/

A pandemic-driven surge in demand led Amazon to expand rapidly and double its fulfilment network in 2021.

Amazon saw its carbon emissions increase by 18pc last year as the e-commerce giant expanded rapidly to meet a pandemic-induced surge in demand for online shopping.

The company emitted nearly 72m metric tonnes of carbon dioxide in absolute terms last year, according to its annual sustainability report published yesterday (1 August).

Up almost a fifth on the previous year, the figure also represents a 40pc jump on 2019 levels – the year Amazon started making carbon emissions data public.

The figures come despite Amazon’s efforts to cut emissions. It launched The Climate Pledge in 2019, its commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. The following year, it launched a $2bn fund to invest in technologies and services that would enable the company to meet its net-zero goal.

Amazon saw a massive surge in demand for its services during the pandemic as increasing numbers of people took to online shopping during lockdowns.

There was also a surge in demand for cloud services as digital transformation started to take hold in companies of all sizes.

In response, Amazon went on an expansion spree, hiring more employees and rapidly building warehouses. Between 2020 and 2021, Amazon said it doubled the size of the fulfilment network it had taken 25 years to build.

“As we work to decarbonise our company, Amazon is growing rapidly. We have scaled our business at an unprecedented pace to help meet the needs of our customers through the pandemic,” the company wrote in its latest sustainability report.

This expansion included an increase in the number of data centres to support Amazon Web Services, its cloud services division. While these facilities pose many challenges when it comes to sustainability, Amazon said it is looking at ways to minimise the environmental footprint of data centres.

Although overall emissions were up last year, the company noted that its carbon intensity – which is the amount of carbon equivalent it emits per dollar of sale – dropped marginally by 1.9pc last year. This decrease is significantly lower than the 16pc drop in 2020.

Amazon sales have been slowing down this year as the pandemic surge wanes. In the first quarter of 2022, the tech giant suffered its first quarterly loss since 2015. This trend continued into its latest quarterly earnings last week, when it revealed a net loss of $2bn.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic