Amazon unveiled an initiative to persuade its sellers to reduce their carbon footprints, reuse and recycle more of their material, and cut the amount of packaging they use when shipping products.
Third-party sellers account for about 60 percent of Amazon sales, and cajoling them into more environmentally friendly practices will help Amazon meet its own sustainability goals.
Amazon’s new Sustainability Solutions Hub centralizes access to several services Amazon had slowly been making available to sellers over the past few years. The site is free and optional, but businesses need an account on Seller Central to use it.
Services featured on the new hub include:
- Climate Pledge Friendly, a badging system Amazon merchants can use to highlight certifications for use of recycled or bio-based materials, among other things.
- Amazon Renewed, which repairs and refurbishes products returned for resale.
- The Ships In Product Packaging program (formerly called Ship in Own Container), which encourages sellers to package their products in boxes that are robust enough to be shipped, thus cutting the waste of putting a product box inside a shipping box.
"There are great things we can do with our scale," the company’s head of worldwide sustainability, Kara Hurst, said in a briefing about the new program. "One thing that I am adamant about is, and that is important, is that we have a lot of knowledge about good partners … We’re going to come with help, with information, with products, with tools. This is a good demonstration of this."
The site will be available at the end of October to merchants in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the U.K and the U.S. It will eventually include a dashboard that shows sellers metrics such as the number of their products badged as Climate Pledge Friendly or the amount of weight (important as a transportation consideration) they have reduced by redesigning packaging. Amazon will also include a list of vendors that can assist with eco-certification, sourcing sustainable materials and packaging design — ones it also uses.
"These are third-party groups that will help them grow and manage this part of their business," Hurst said.
Amazon first teased the initiative in July in its environmental progress report, which said that the company will require suppliers to report emissions reductions data and other ESG metrics starting in 2024. Hurst said at the time that Amazon would use its scale and own innovations to help suppliers meet those goals. "We want to signal … it’s really important people map, measure and manage their own emissions. We want to work with companies that are actively managing those."
Eliminating 2 million tons of waste
Through the Ships In Product Packaging service, Amazon will help sellers redesign their packages so no additional boxes are needed to deliver them safely to customers — seeking ways to slim them down, while ensuring the goods inside aren’t damaged. The program will become available next year to merchants who use Amazon’s logistics service, Fulfillment by Amazon, to deliver their orders.
In 2022, Amazon shipped 11 percent of its own branded items without added packaging. Since 2015, it has eliminated an estimated 2 million tons of packaging materials through efforts including this one. That’s roughly the same weight as 230 Space Needles. Earlier this year, it opened the program up to an undisclosed number of select sellers, and Hurst said their interest encouraged Amazon to go further.
Of course, sellers might balk at the costs of redesigning their existing packaging. But those who embrace it may be eligible for lower Amazon fulfillment fees, because handling smaller and lighter deliveries can help Amazon reduce its own emissions. Those details are still being worked out, and will be disclosed when the program expands next year, Hurst said.
The Climate Pledge Friendly badge = more traffic to sellers
As part of the hub launch, Amazon is adding more certifications that sellers can apply for in its 3-year-old Climate Pledge Friendly program, bringing the total to more than 50. (For perspective, there are about 800 eco-certifications in the broader market; these 50 are the ones Amazon has decided carry the most weight.)
The new designations include the SCS Recycled Content Standard, which recognizes electronics that include a high percentage of recycled materials; the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification Plus, which qualifies bio-based materials; and Plant-Based Fiber Blend, which Amazon said it created to cover textiles with that sort of content.
Sellers using Climate Pledge Friendly badges on their listings report an average pageview increase of 10 percent, Hurst said. Sixty million customers have used these recommendations for purchases, she said.
"We want to continue to increase that," she said.
Other e-commerce companies offer resources similar to what Amazon is rolling out next month — although none appear to be as comprehensive. Etsy, for example, has engaged a packaging partner, EcoEnclose, to provide sellers with recycled materials or responsibly sourced paper. Walmart is extending some practices it adopted for its own packaging to sellers. They include the elimination of plastic bag mailers, "rightsizing" boxes so they are more appropriate for what’s inside, or consolidating orders into fewer packages — to sellers that use its fulfillment services. The move is expected to eliminate more than 65 million plastic bag mailers during the current fiscal year, ending Jan. 31.