It’s all hands on deck if the world is to solve its climate-change dilemma in just a few decades. But money in female entrepreneurial hands is much harder to come by than for male counterparts. Amazon.com Inc. said Thursday it wants to close that gap.
and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are launching a public-private partnership to address the gender inequities for women in the climate-change finance ecosystem.
Amazon will commit a total of $53 million to help accelerate women’s climate-change solutions as the globe edges toward a net-zero emissions future that looks for replacements for polluting fossil fuels
and other energy-saving and sustainability efforts. The money expands efforts detailed with Amazon’s Climate Pledge, first announced in 2019.
The pledge includes $3 million toward the USAID partnership and $50 million for Amazon to invest directly in climate tech companies run by women. And it hits just a few days before government and private-sector power players converge on Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, for the latest U.N. gathering to keep up the pressure on cutting emissions. The event is known as the Commitment of Parties, or COP27.
Amazon’s pledge also comes a few months after it released sustainability numbers that showed an increase in its emissions when delivery demand surged during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has been commended for making these figures transparent.
As Amazon and other private players push for a greener future, they’ve found shortcomings. Female-founded companies typically receive a fraction of global venture capital, and that percentage fell during the pandemic. Yet research shows that female entrepreneurs are more likely than their male counterparts to innovate to address social needs. Women-led companies also generate more revenue per dollar invested and produce greater ROI for investors.
“As an important step in solving climate change, we must address the gender inequalities that persist in climate finance, and ensure female entrepreneurs have an equal seat at the table and access to the funding, networks and technical support they need to scale climate solutions,” said Kara Hurst, vice president of Worldwide Sustainability at Amazon.
Amazon will serve as a founding partner of USAID’s Climate Gender Equity Fund, a new climate finance facility designed to remove systemic market barriers that prevent women and girls from accessing climate finance. USAID will also match Amazon’s $3 million investment to help launch the fund.
Technology will play a key role as the coming decades will feature an energy transition to drop the old, one-time cheaper options like coal, oil and natural gas
for wind, solar, nuclear, hydrogen
and other options. Carbon capture and storage also remains in play. And, the building and construction sector is expected to undergo a major technological shift to cut down on the energy and emissions that most structures spew during manufacturing steel and concrete and throughout a building’s lifecycle.
Amazon shook up private business and environmental groups alike with its 2019 Climate Pledge Fund. At that time, the company set a goal to meet Paris Climate Agreement objectives of holding global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius 10 years early, with a pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040, even for its Prime one-day shipping service. Amazon has also been working toward using 100% renewable energy by 2030.
At the time, neutral observers called the effort “ambitious but achievable” after the fast delivery service had been both championed and vilified for upending the retail space, using vast amounts of energy to source and deliver its products quickly. The company also remains in the spotlight over workforce unionization issues at its warehouses and other facilities.
In August, Amazon said its carbon footprint grew 18% in 2021, as the company’s rapid growth during the pandemic overwhelmed emissions-cutting efforts at the time.
The world’s largest online retailer emitted 71.54 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent last year, Amazon disclosed in its sustainability report. That’s up about 40% since the company first disclosed the number, using data from 2019.
But the company appears committed to its pledge. As a co-founder of The Climate Pledge and with a commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, Amazon will work with pledge signatories and other companies to encourage their additional support and corporate investment in this new fund, the company said in its Thursday release. The new program also has links to the Biden administration’s National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality.
Amazon’s stock is down 46% in the year to date. The S&P 500
is down nearly 22% over the same period.