Yesterday, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced that he will step down from his position as company CEO this year. Bezos’ announcement accompanied Amazon’s fourth quarter of 2020 earnings report, which revealed that the company’s net sales increased by 38% in 2020 and are expected to grow another 33% in the first quarter of 2021 (as compared to the same quarter in 2020).
Oceana released a report last December that estimated, for the first time, the company’s plastic footprint. According to the report, Amazon generated an estimated 467 million pounds of plastic packaging waste in 2019 and that up to 22 million pounds of this plastic likely polluted the world’s waterways and seas. The company disputed the report and said that its plastic footprint was 25% of Oceana’s estimate – which would still be hundreds of millions of pounds – but has to date refused to make data about its plastic use public. Matthew Littlejohn, Senior Vice President of Oceana, issued the following statement in the wake of the company’s most recent earnings report.
“Now is the time for Amazon and Mr. Bezos to step up and become a leader in reducing its plastic footprint and saving the oceans by showing the e-commerce industry how to reduce plastic use. The fourth quarter earnings report revealed staggering growth for the company’s sales as well as the major news that the company’s founder and longtime CEO – and e-commerce visionary – Jeff Bezos is stepping down later this year.
This company’s dramatic increase in sales, combined with the recent reports about e-commerce's rapid growth and the rising share of the e-commerce market globally (now approaching 20% of all retail) means that Amazon is defining – on a global scale – how we will all shop in the future. The company has already shown in India and through the development of a recycled paper mailer that it can sell and ship products with less plastic. Amazon can stop inundating our local landfills, waterways, and seas with plastic pollution today. Unfortunately, Amazon, while highlighting its commendable initiatives to combat climate change in its fourth quarter earnings report, failed to make commensurate commitments to reduce plastics and offer plastic-free choices at checkout as part of its “protecting the planet” program.
Jeff Bezos has the ability – before he leaves his position as CEO – to meet this challenge and to leave a legacy that includes helping to solve the plastics problem rather than exacerbating it. He and the company must make it clear that increasing plastic use is not a necessary part of addressing climate change given plastic’s huge carbon footprint and plastic pollution’s negative impact on the world’s oceans. This is especially important given that the company has already demonstrated that it can innovate and create plastic-free alternatives and other packaging solutions that can help to reduce carbon emissions.”
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-third of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 225 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution, and the killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that 1 billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit www.oceana.org to learn more.