The biggest offenders are, unsurprisingly, the world’s largest retailers, according to a new report released Tuesday by environmental organizations Stand.earth and Pacific Environment. The report shows that goods imported to the United States by Walmart, Target, Amazon and IKEA between 2018 and 2020 accounted for 20 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.
Monday there were 84 ships waiting off the coast of Southern California, 37 outside the Port of Los Angeles and the other 47 near the port of Long Beach.
For the communities surrounding these ports, emissions from cargo ships have long caused serious health problems. Increasing consumer demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic and continued port congestion is pushing pollution levels in these communities to record levels, according to the report.
“Until recently, enormous climate disruption and emissions harmful to human health from international container transport – and the companies that purchase their services – have passed under the radar of public scrutiny,” the report said.
A “disproportionate role”
Among the companies examined, Target ( and )Amazone ( have played and “a disproportionate role in the current crisis of congestion and pollution” off the coast of California. )
Amazon has indicated that it aims to deliver 50% of its shipments with net zero carbon by 2030. It is also a signatory of the Climate Pledge to achieve net zero carbon emissions across all of its operations by 2040 .
As ships from two of the world’s largest retailers idled offshore, they brought “higher levels of air pollutants associated with asthma and cancer, including particulates, nitrogen oxides and sulfur in communities adjacent to the port of San Pedro, Wilmington and West Long Beach, ”the report says.
The report estimates that Target is responsible for more than 6.4 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions while Amazon is responsible for 1.4 million metric tonnes.
A spokesperson for Target said the company is committed to “reducing our shipping carbon footprint as we strive to achieve our goal of being a net zero business by 2040, with net zero emissions in our operations and supply chain ”. Target is also working with its global carriers to ensure they meet the International Maritime Organization’s 2020 limits on sulfur-based fuel for ships to help reduce emissions, the spokesperson added.
Walmart (, the world’s largest retailer, topped the list with the highest volume of trade and the biggest issues. The report estimates that Walmart is responsible for more than 11.5 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions over the past two years. )
A Walmart representative did not respond to a request for comment.
Ikea said it agrees that emissions from shipping are an important topic and need to be more targeted.
Unlike the other three companies included in the report, IKEA’s emissions have declined over the past two years. The report estimates that the furniture retailer emitted 1.3 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions between 2018 and 2020. However, these emissions have trended downward overall, decreasing by 16% between 2018 and 2019 and 8.5% between 2019 and 2020.
In an effort to bypass supply chain congestion and in line with its strategy to reduce carbon emissions, IKEA transported goods from China to Europe by rail rather than by ship. The change is one of the reasons the retailer saw lower emissions, according to the report.
“We are a big buyer of transportation and have a great responsibility to influence the shipping industry in a positive way,” the company said in a statement. “IKEA is committed to becoming climate positive by 2030, reducing more greenhouse gas emissions than the IKEA value chain emits. “
Last month, Goldman Sachs warned that backlogs at ports are expected to persist “at least” until mid-2022 and estimated that there was about $ 24 billion in cargo outside of Los Angeles ports alone and from Long Beach.
Continued congestion at the port has raised concerns as holiday shopping spikes and consumer prices continue to rise.
In October, President Joe Biden announced that the Port of Los Angeles would move to a 24/7 schedule, aligning it with the Port of Long Beach, which was already operating 24 hours a day.
Biden is expected to speak on the supply chain crisis on Wednesday.