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Verizon, Infosys, Reckitt Benckiser join Amazon's Climate Pledge initiative

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An interior view of the Amazon headquarters building in Seattle.

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U.S. telecommunications firm Verizon, Indian IT services giant Infosys and British consumer goods brand Reckitt Benckiser have become the first global companies to join Amazon's global climate initiative.

In signing up to the Climate Pledge campaign this week, all three companies have committed to joining Amazon in reaching "carbon neutrality" by 2040.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced the news Tuesday in an Instagram post. "Amazon and Global Optimism co-founded the Pledge to encourage more companies to use their size and scale to fight climate change," he wrote. "Big thanks to these companies for stepping up and showing leadership."

The Climate Pledge was founded by the tech giant and campaign group Global Optimism in September.

In a blog post providing an update on the campaign, Kara Hurst, Amazon chief of worldwide sustainability, admitted "it has not been easy — 2020 has presented us with unexpected challenges — from the COVID-19 pandemic to a serious reckoning on racial equity."

But she stressed that "as we come to terms with these difficult circumstances, we are adamant that we need to continue addressing the other crisis which is upon us — the climate crisis."

Hurst added that despite the unprecedented health and economic crises, the company had "stayed the course in our commitment to deliver the Pledge and make it the North Star for all Amazon's business."

As one of the largest and best-known companies in the world, Amazon has an outsized opportunity to help drive the decarbonization of the economy.

Hurst also confirmed Amazon had joined the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), a move that commits the firm to setting emissions reduction targets that can be independently verified as being in line with the Paris Agreement's goals.

Some commentators had suggested Amazon's Climate Pledge could overlap with and detract from existing corporate decarbonization programs, such as SBTi.

As such, the company's commitment to join the group was broadly welcomed as a step forward for global efforts to encourage more major multinationals to deliver credible carbon targets.

Andrew Steer, president and chief executive of the World Resources Institute and SBTi executive board member, commended the "highly encouraging" news.

"As one of the largest and best-known companies in the world, Amazon has an outsized opportunity to help drive the decarbonization of the economy," he said. "Committing to set a science-based emissions reduction target is an extremely positive step."

Steer also challenged Amazon and the Climate Pledge's new signatories to set and stick to "highly ambitions emissions targets" in line with climate science. "We commend Amazon and other major companies who plan to drive down greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero before it's too late," he said.

Maria Mendiluce from We Mean Business also congratulated Amazon on its plan to set a science-based target. "Companies globally are listening to science and committing to bold climate action. In doing so, they ensure long-term growth and competitiveness," she said. "Amazon's pledge to be net-zero carbon by 2040 will undoubtedly catalyze the innovation we need to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon economy."

Amazon is aiming to run its operations using 100 percent renewable energy by the end of the decade and has said it will invest $100 million in global reforestation projects through its Right Now Climate Fund. In April, the firm committed $10 million from the fund to support restoration and forestry solutions across the Appalachian Mountains and a month later it contributed $3.75 million to urban greening in Germany.

The company also has pledged to transition to an entirely electric fleet the end of the decade and placed an order for 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from Detroit based firm Rivian last year.

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