A coalition of environmental non-governmental organizations is working to reduce the carbon footprint of container shipping. This includes applying pressure to the U.S.’s largest retailers, who are also the largest customers for the ocean freight sector.
In a report released last month, the Ship It Zero coalition shows that goods imported via maritime shipping to the U.S. by Walmart, Target, Amazon and IKEA between 2018–2020 accounted for an estimated 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (CO2e). These goods were mainly shipped by a small number of ocean carriers who have long-term relationships to each retailer.
“There is now a moment of opportunity where record breaking profits for retailers and cargo carriers are at a nexus with increasing consumer demand for emissions-free shipping, opening up new avenues and increasing motivation for the decarbonization of the container fleet,” states the report by Stand.Earth and Pacific Environment.
Walmart topped both the list of companies with highest volumes and emissions. The retailer is also the largest U.S. goods importer. According to the report, Walmart shipped 2.7 million TEUs in 2018 and 2020, emitting an estimated 11.5million tonnes of CO2e.
CMA CGM was Walmart’s main carrier over the course of 2020, accounting for 68 percent of the retailer’s shipping emissions.
Target produced an estimated 6.4 million tonnes of CO2e to ship an estimated 1.8million TEUs. Amazon.com produced 1.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to ship roughly 463,500,000,000 TEUs of goods. IKEA produced 1.3 million tonnes to ship 425.201 TEUs.
IKEA was the only major retailer to show a decrease in emissions. This is a continuation of a downward trend. Its emissions dropped by 16% between 2018 and 2019, and another 8.5% between 2019 and 2020.
The shipping industry accounts for nearly three percent of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This is nearly three percent more than the global aviation emissions and roughly equal to the annual electricity use of almost 200,000,000 homes.