Amazon has launched a dedicated “eco-friendly” shopping platform to help guide consumers in the UK and other European countries to household products with sustainable credentials.
From plastic-free solid shampoo bars and a bamboo toothbrush to organic children’s clothing, more than 40,000 items on the new platform will carry certificates from schemes such as Fairtrade International and the Carbon Trust to help consumers pick products on their environmental merits.
The world’s biggest online retailer has faced criticism for its use of excessive cardboard and other packing materials, and last year came under fire for introducing new-style packaging that could not be recycled. But Amazon said the new scheme will help lessen the company’s impact on the environment.
The products, badged with a special logo from at least one of 18 independent certification schemes, are featured in a dedicated section of the website and shown in shopping results, with extra sustainability information on the product page. They include goods made and sold by small businesses across Europe, including – in the UK – Manchester-based Faith in Nature, which makes plastic-free shampoo bars, and Kite Clothing in Poole, Dorset, known for its sustainable children’s clothes.
Amazon has also created its own externally validated certification, Compact by Design, to encourage brands to design products that can reduce carbon emissions through increased efficiency and better packaging. Among those already certified is the Cif ecorefill, a concentrated cleaning spray refill that helps people reuse their spray bottles.
The platform was launched in the US in September and is being rolled out this week to the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. It supports Amazon’s wider commitment to reach the Paris Agreement 10 years early and be at net zero carbon by 2040.
However, environmental campaigners pointed out that 40,000 badged products was “a tip of the iceberg” of the millions it ships within Europe every year. It is thought that Amazon ships between 4bn and 5bn parcels a year worldwide. One of the world’s largest logistics operators, the retailer has been a major beneficiary of the Covid-19 pandemic as homebound shoppers have turned to online shopping, accelerating the collapse of already struggling bricks-and-mortar rivals.
Will McCallum, senior campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “Amazon sells millions of products and this latest initiative covers just a tiny fraction of the total. By certifying only a limited range of goods, Amazon is implicitly admitting that the rest of its business model isn’t up to scratch. The environmental and climate crises we are facing demand more than token gestures and piecemeal action.”
Doug Gurr, Amazon UK manager, said the new platform will help customers discover more sustainable products. “With 18 external certification programmes and our own new certification, we’re incentivising selling partners to create sustainable products that help protect the planet for future generations,” he said.
Friends of the Earth’s head of policy, Mike Childs, welcomed the initiative as “a small step in the right direction” but said the company had a long journey ahead of it before it could be considered green.
“Will greener products appear higher in searches? And other products be labelled as climate-unfriendly?” he said. “Ultimately we need legally binding standards and regulations to ensure all products meet the very highest environmental standards, and that every company plays its part in building a greener, fairer future for us all.”