The Clean Water Blog

Amazon warehouse /  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Amazon at the top for fast but failing elsewhere

Sometimes I wonder if planning will become a lost art. Thanks to companies like Amazon, I no longer have to go to a video store or even wait for a DVD to arrive in the mail. Instead I can stream videos right from a computer onto my T.V. When I realize my friend’s birthday party is in a couple days, I can order a gift and have it delivered to my door the same day. While I love that my sometimes poor planning no longer has consequences, what I don’t love is Amazon’s general lack of corporate responsibility.

Despite being the world’s largest retailer, Amazon is late to the game on sustainability. It wasn’t until 2014 when Amazon hired its first sustainability leader. That’s twenty years after the company was founded in 1994. More recently a team of people with good reputations in the sustainability community have been hired to lead Amazon’s efforts.  As a result, Amazon now has sustainability goals on their web site – all promising developments.

While Amazon is reporting progress on advancing several sustainability goals, the company received an “F” score on the recent Mind the Store Retailer Report Card for failing to take actions to protect shoppers from toxic chemicals. Retailers like Target have responded to consumer concerns by adopting a chemical policy that includes bans on known toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, phthalates and perfluorinated chemicals. Best Buy also committed to enact a chemical policy by the end of the year.

Retailers are taking these actions because of consumer concerns about the chemicals in their products and there is good reason for people to be concerned. Most of the chemicals in our plastics, cleaners, furniture and other products have not been adequately tested for health and environmental impacts. This was the driving reason for the recent update to the federal law responsible for regulating chemicals. While the Environmental Protection Agency has new powers to evaluate the safety of chemicals, they have a backlog of tens of thousands of chemicals to assess. This process will be lengthy given the agency has a schedule of evaluating only 20 chemicals at a time. This glacial pace of evaluation is one reason why retailers need to use their power to protect consumers today.

Now that Amazon has become a top retailer, they have a responsibility to use their growing power to clean up their supply chain and protect consumers from harmful chemicals. Let Amazon know an “F” isn’t acceptable.