Amazon leverages innovation to deliver a sustainability offering

Every time I talk to clients or give new employees a presentation on our sustainability offering, I always start with this quote  from KoAnn Skryzinyaz (CEO of Sustainable Brands) that describes how we define sustainability: “Transforming businesses to respect environmental limits while fulfilling social wants and needs has become an unparalleled platform for innovation on strategy, design, manufacturing and brand — offering massive opportunities to compete and to adapt in a rapidly evolving world.”

It’s sometimes challenging to find a good example of how innovation through a sustainability lens delivers strong brand relevance. Amazon’s recent announcement about its sustainability research project shows how linking your core business to solving environmental or social challenges well beyond the borders of your own company or sector shows us how it’s done. Quietly and in the background, Amazon’s expanding internal sustainability team has been working with its AWS (Amazon Web Services division) to offer a compelling solution set that will help tackle the challenge of climate change.

“The Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative leverages Amazon Web Services’ technology and scalable infrastructure to stage, analyze, and distribute data, and is a joint effort between the AWS Open Data and Amazon Sustainability teams. The AWS Open Data program already makes numerous datasets available for public use through its Registry of Open Data on AWS. Amazon’s Sustainability Team began collaborating with AWS last year to start warehousing the vast amounts of public data that describe our planet. The initiative identifies foundational data for sustainability and works closely with data providers like NOAA to stage their data in the AWS Cloud by giving them complete ownership and control over how their data is shared.

AWS ‘allows us to do things at scale that have not been done at scale before,’ says Josh Hacker, Co-founder of Jupiter Intel, which helps organizations prepare for climate change and weather risks. AWS customers, such as Sinergise, Intertrust, and OpenAQ, are increasing access to data by developing tools that help others access and use the open data on AWS.

According to Amazon, the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative will support AWS customers in their sustainability work so that innovators and researchers are supported with the data, tools, and technical expertise they need to move sustainability to the next level.”

Even as this initiative will help thousands of organizations prepare for, or mitigate, climate risk, it doesn’t absolve the company from additional leadership in transparency and disclosure – something that experts say will be required in the next 5-8 years. Based on a recent benchmarking, it’s clear that Amazon still does not share details about its global carbon footprint nor its environmental or social impact targets/goals, programs and results. No one knows what the full carbon footprint is for Amazon.

This project, however, is a strong commitment from one of the world’s largest data companies to use its core competency for good and benefit the planet and all its species — including humanity.  In my way of thinking, we respect this innovation and keep pushing for transparency.


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