Amazon commits to using more renewable energy as it sets out regional sustainability roadmap

The company has installed more than 5,000 panels on the rooftop at its biggest fulfilment centre in the UAE

Amazon has installed more than 5,000 solar panels on the rooftop of its biggest fulfilment centre in the UAE, DXB3. Image courtesy of Amazon
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E-commerce company Amazon, which pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040, issued its sustainability roadmap for the Mena region – a series of measures aimed at helping the company to meet its global Climate Pledge.

The roadmap includes commitments to increasing renewable energy use and energy efficiency in its buildings, improving the sustainability of its packaging and using greener transport to ship goods.

"We take the first step of the journey by announcing our first solar rooftop energy ... in DXB3, which is our largest FC [fulfilment centre] in the UAE," Prashant Saran, director of operations at Amazon Mena, told The National.

"This is just the first leg of the journey."

Amazon first announced its Climate Pledge in 2019, which envisions the company meeting Paris Agreement targets a decade earlier than the 2050 deadline. It also vows to ensure it produces regular reporting on greenhouse gas emissions, implements carbon reduction strategies and uses 'credible' carbon offsets. More than 100 companies have aligned themselves to Amazon's pledge, Mr Saran said.

The company has installed 5,565 solar panels on top of DXB3's roof, which will generate 2.8 megawatts of energy, or about 4.6 million kilowatt-hours a year. This is enough to meet 60 per cent of the facility's energy demands, Mr Saran said. He declined to say how much the installation had cost.

Amazon plans to add more rooftop installations to newer fulfilment centres being developed in Saudi Arabia and Egypt by next year, but may not be able to retrofit some existing sites due to structural and other limitations.

"It's not always possible in every building ... but we are examining every aspect of our operation and seeing opportunities where we can try this. Wherever it's not possible to install the solar rooftop, we are in addition also focusing on driving energy efficiencies in the building."

In terms of packaging, the company is aiming to limit the weight and size of its packaging and use more sustainable material, as well as clubbing more items together to reduce the number of parcels sent.

"We have been able to reduce the weight of our outbound packaging in the UAE by around 20 per cent since 2019," Mr Saran added.

It will also expand its Ship in Own Box Container service, allowing companies' products to be delivered in their original packaging without the need for an extra Amazon box.

Amazon has faced criticism on the amount of waste generated at its fulfilment centres.

An investigation by UK broadcaster ITV last week found the company was destroying thousands of unsold products including electrical goods and personal protection equipment. The amount the ecommerce company charges third-party sellers for warehouse space increases rapidly if goods are stored for more than six months, making it uneconomical for them to continue taking the space.

The investigation found a single fulfilment centre in Dunfermline, Scotland destroyed more than 130,000 items in a single week. The UK government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs responded in a blog post calling for "an end to the throwaway culture", adding that it was reviewing regulations to ensure all retailers and online marketplaces take a greater responsibility for the disposal of electrical goods.

"In this space, I acknowledge we have a lot of work to do. However, in this region we have already started a donations programme where we are working with local NGOs [non-governmental organisations] and partners to be able to put to good use such items, which we continue to work with our vendors and sellers on," Mr Saran said.

"The donations programme is something we started last year and we do intend to double down and scale it up as we continue to grow in this region," he said. The company is working with Emirates Red Crescent and other organisations on this initiative, a spokeswoman said.

Transportation is one of the biggest components of Amazon's carbon footprint and the company's goal "is to reduce carbon emissions through the use of technology, new equipment, electric vehicles, as well as alternative sources of energy", Mr Saran said. This includes using more electric and compressed natural gas-powered vehicles in its last mile deliveries, he added.

"As we embark on the path to a low carbon economy a decade ahead of the Paris Agreement, I call on businesses in Mena to join us as signatories to The Climate Pledge," Amazon Mena's vice president Ronaldo Mouchawar said in an accompanying statement.

"We add our voice to Amazon’s call for businesses to step up to the challenge and take the Climate Pledge," the UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment Abdullah Al Nuaimi said.