New research released March 1 by the Ship It Zero campaign finds that Walmart, Target and Home Depot were the largest ocean import polluters of 2021, as e-commerce demands skyrocketed in the U.S. and globally. Ship It Zero is a climate and public health campaign to move the world’s largest companies to 100% zero-emissions ocean shipping.
The report takes an in-depth look at the nation’s largest major companies that import goods into the U.S. — including Walmart, Home Depot, LG Electronics, Nike, Target, Amazon and IKEA — and reveals new data on ocean shipping emissions generated from the transportation of goods from the technology, furniture and fashion sectors.
This report provides analysis from 2021 when climate and public health impacts of fossil-fueled cargo shipping were exacerbated by COVID-19-related supply chain disruptions and corresponding port congestion.
The retailers studied in the report emitted 3.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions through the import of goods into the U.S. alone – equivalent to the emissions from 400,000 U.S. homes.
The report also shows the ports that have been most impacted by imports and the communities that are facing growing emissions leading to increasing rates of pollution and health risks.
Madeline Rose, Climate Campaign Director at Pacific Environment, said: “Ship It Zero’s latest report shows us that Walmart and Home Depot, in particular, are neglecting their responsibilities to extend their climate commitments to the seas and do right by U.S. port communities.
“Consumers overwhelmingly want their goods shipped on zero-emission ships and have reported that they’d move their business to companies with a cleaner ocean-climate footprint.
“We urge Walmart, Home Depot and all companies that continue to rely on fossil-fueled ocean freight services to abandon dirty ships now and compete to put their goods on the world’s first zero-emission vessels.”
Kendra Ulrich, Shipping Campaigns Director for Stand.earth, said: “Some companies have made a commitment to zero-emission shipping such as Amazon, Target and IKEA, which represents a step in the right direction but it simply doesn’t go far enough.
“Today’s report shows that brands across a spectrum of industries, from fashion to tech, need to increase their targets to achieve 100% zero-emission shipping by 2030. They must act now and rapidly clean up shipping to ensure a healthier, cleaner tomorrow for our communities and our oceans.”
Major U.S. importers across sectors must make more near-term annual commitments to abandon dirty ships this decade.
Walmart and Home Depot have made no public commitments to zero-emissions ocean shipping and must step up to port communities and abandon dirty ships.
Current 2040 commitments from Target, Amazon, IKEA and others are too late. Walmart and Home Depot have enormous market power to help accelerate the shipping industry’s energy transition and they should act to wield it.
The maritime import emissions of 18 companies were analyzed including: Walmart (#1), Target (#2), The Home Depot (#3), LG Group (#4), Lowes (#5), Ashley’s Furniture (#6), Amazon (#7), Samsung (#8), Costco (#9), Nike (#10), IKEA (#11), Williams Sonoma (#12), Dell (#13), VF Corp (#14), Adidas (#15), Hewlett-Packard (#16), Living Spaces (#17) and H&M (#18).
Walmart, Target and Home Depot produced the majority of climate and air pollution of all companies analyzed through their ocean import practices in 2021.
Whether analyzed for smog-forming Nitrous Oxide (NOx) emissions, cancer-causing particulate matter (PM), or climate-warming carbon dioxide (CO2), Walmart, Target and Home Depot topped the charts as the nation’s largest ocean import polluters in 2021.
Home Depot is the largest ocean import climate polluter in the furniture and home improvement sector, and the third largest import climate polluter in 2021 across all companies. Home Depot’s ocean shipping was responsible for nearly 420,000 metric tons of carbon emissions and 8 metric tons of methane in 2021.
LG and Samsung are the top ship polluters in the technology industry among companies studied. These companies accounted for 309,000 and 217,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions and 5.9 and 4.2 metric tons of methane on voyages to the United States in 2021, respectively.
Nike is the top ocean import polluter of all the fashion companies analyzed, responsible for 87,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2021.
The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handled the largest share of company cargo imports investigated by this study, with over 40% of imports by twenty-foot equivalent (TEU) and 35.5% of total carbon emissions created through these companies’ maritime imports to the U.S. This shows that the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach continue to have an outsized responsibility to act to catalyze the clean energy transition in shipping and end ship pollution at the ports.
The Ports of Seattle, Tacoma and the Northwest Seaport Alliance handled some of the cleanest, least carbon intensive imports. This suggests that these Pacific Northwest (PNW) ports are well positioned to lead the U.S. in developing credible, high ambition green shipping corridors.
Imports to these PNW ports were generally dominated by a small group of companies — Target, Walmart and Home Depot — together responsible for 66.4% of containers and 70.1% of CO2 generation at the Port of Seattle. This shows that the PNW ports, Target, Walmart, and Home Depot are well positioned to collaborate to end ship pollution.
The Port of Savannah handled the most retailer containers on the East Coast, processing 13.3% (567,000) of the national total. Responsible for 15.7% total CO2 generation, Savannah had the second highest carbon intensity per container of any port throughout 2021 (989 kg CO2), second only to Houston.
Shipping industry’s pollution problem
The global shipping industry accounts for 3% of global climate emissions, more than global air travel. If shipping were a country, it would be the world’s sixth largest climate polluter. But since maritime shipping negotiated itself out of the U.N. Paris Agreement, the effort to reduce emissions in the industry has been slower than in other sectors.
Approximately 90% of the world trade is transported by sea, and current business-as-usual scenarios project emissions will grow up to 50% over 2018 levels. While the International Maritime Organization noted increased ship size and operational improvements aimed at creating better fuel efficiency have resulted in a decrease in emissions intensity, annual absolute emissions are still increasing.
Photo credit: iStock/ Paul Bradbury