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Marketing and Comms
How Amazon Is Scaling Conscious Consumerism by Partnering with Brands, Certifications

The e-commerce giant is working with over 20 product-certification partners to deliver product-specific sustainability information to shoppers through its Climate Pledge Friendly program.

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, recently rolled out its Climate Pledge Friendly program and badge to better highlight sustainable products. In a recent Sustainable Brands™ webinar, Dr Cyrus Wadia — Head of Sustainable Product at Amazon — joined representatives from Fairtrade America and Lily’s Sweets to share the initial results of the program.

Through the Climate Pledge Friendly program, Wadia hopes to increase the availability of sustainable products a hundredfold through greater demand — both from shoppers and from brands.

“My sincere hope is that we use the Climate Pledge Friendly program to attract the brands who set their bar the highest. These brands will be those who hold themselves accountable through certain standards and be committed to transparency,” he said.

How Amazon determines which of the billions of product it sells are sustainable

To aid in this scaling of sustainable change, Amazon has relied on third-party certifications to identify which products can be considered sustainable. The company conducted an independent review of over 500 different certification bodies — especially considering their scientifically defensible impact on the environment.

Based on the review, Amazon selected 21 certification partners to help launch the program, including familiar labels such as Fairtrade International and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). Importantly, Amazon selected certifications that drilled down to the SKU or product level — rather than company-wide certifications — to deliver product-specific sustainability information to shoppers.

“How many of us have spent time pouring through the CSR reports of different companies? It’s hard and takes time. We can’t expect shoppers to do the same,” Wadia explained. “Using the trust of certifications like Fairtrade … we hope to simplify it for the customer — make it easy and take the guesswork out. When they see the Climate Pledge Friendly badge, they know they can trust it. If they drill down deeper (which they can), they can see exactly which certifications the products have and what they mean.”

Brands benefit through highlighting their certifications

It’s clear that brands appreciate the boost the program provides. Jane Miller, CEO of chocolate company Lily’s Sweets and webinar panelist, said she sees a clear benefit: “We see Amazon as not just a retailer but a place to learn about products. They get reliable information that is highly accessible. The question is — how do we actually make it mainstream, so that everyone can afford something that is best for them and others? Even if a shopper doesn’t know anything about Lily’s, we think seeing the Fairtrade Mark or the Climate Pledge Friendly badge is a reason to trust us. When you have a certification that is well-known and well-trusted, it helps small brands.”

Path to scaling sustainable products

But Amazon is not stopping there. The company’s goal is to increase the number of certified products a hundredfold, in order to scale impact. Wadia views this goal feasible only if certifiers, brands and retailers work together to create better products — as well as the demand for those products — saying: “If we connect these three pieces, we will see a multiplier in the amount of the sustainable products available in the marketplace writ large.”

“Fairtrade is excited to partner with Amazon because our mission is to help farmers and workers sell more in the US. We meet consumers where they are — and often, that’s on Amazon,” Peg Willingham, Executive Director of Fairtrade America, remarked during the webinar. “The products that we consume in wealthy countries are often grown by farmers in developing countries who are most affected by climate change, even though they contribute to it the least. We’re excited to work with brands interested in getting certified, because it contributes to our goal of promoting social justice and climate justice by getting a fair deal for farmers.”

The Climate Pledge Friendly badge launched in late 2020, so more definitive results of its impact are not yet available. However, Wadia is optimistic that they will see positive change soon:

“We are incentivizing brands to take another look at how they make products, get them to market, and add certifications to their products if they qualify. This is really exciting because we think it will create an upward spiral and add rocket fuel to drive more demand for these types of certifications. We believe it’s great work and will move the entire system forward.”