Climate Pledge Friendly: Amazon's critical step towards sustainability?

Amazon recognizes "sustainable products" with the Climate Pledge Friendly. What is behind this, how trustworthy is it and what is the criticism?

Climate Pledge Friendly: Amazon's critical step towards sustainability?
Is Amazon's Climate Pledge Friendly label really sustainable?

In 2019, Amazon committed to becoming climate neutral by 2040. [5] As part of this goal, the company has introduced the Climate Pledge Friendly label.

But what exactly does the Climate Pledge Friendly Label from Amazon mean?

The label identifies products that, according to Amazon, make a positive contribution to climate protection.

We dig into the advantages and criticisms of the Climate Pledge Friendly label!

What is Amazon's "Climate Pledge Friendly"?

"Climate Pledge Friendly" is an initiative by Amazon with which the retailer wants to label sustainable products. For a product to be awarded the Climate Pledge Friendly label on Amazon, it must

  • receive an external certificate selected by Amazon (e.g. Fairtrade, FSC or Nordic Swan Ecolabel)
  • or be certified by Amazon's own Compact by Design or Pre-owned certifications.

Climate Pledge Friendly therefore does not have its own evaluation criteria, but indicates that the product has been certified by another certification.

Which external certifications are included in the Climate Pledge Friendly program?

In addition to the 2 certifications from Amazon certifications (Compact by Design or Pre-owned), there are currently 53 external certificates that can be used to obtain the Climate Pledge Friendly label for a product. These include, among others:

  • Climate neutral by ClimatePartner
  • Fairtrade International
  • FSC
  • EU Organic
  • Nordic Swan Ecolabel
Screenshot der teilnehmenden Label des Climate Pledge Friendly Programms
Excerpt from the participating labels of the Climate Pledge Friendly program. Source: Amazon website [1]

According to its own information, Amazon regularly evaluates the external certifications and adds further certificates.

What are Amazon's own certificates? Compact by Design and pre-owned Certified?

In addition to the external certifications, Amazon also uses two of its own awards to highlight Climate Pledge Friendly products: Compact by Design and Pre-owned Certified

Compact by Design

The Compact by Design sustainability certification is awarded by Amazon and is intended to identify products that have a more efficient design. When less air and water are used, products require less packaging and can be shipped more efficiently. For larger quantities, these small differences in product size and weight lead to significantly lower carbon emissions.

Criteria for the Compact by Design certificate, source: Amazon website [2]

The main efficiency gains are

  • Less packaging
  • Smaller volume due to less air in the container
  • More efficient shape, enabling better use of space
  • Lower packaging weight
  • Water-free technology (e.g. solid shampoo↗ instead of liquid shampoo)
  • Products with increased concentration, which can then be diluted at home

In theory, these products should therefore avoid packaging waste and CO₂ emissions from transportation. Amazon has invented the "efficiency per unit" metric and associated formula and defined threshold values for each product category.

It is striking, however, that the inferior product in the "water-free technology" category was awarded the Compact by Design and consequently also the Climate Pledge Friendly certificate from Amazon.

Pre-owned Certified

Pre-owned Certified is also certified by Amazon as a used product. These products are tested, cleaned and (if applicable) repaired according to excellent functional standards. All products with the certificate must meet the following criteria

  • Repairability
  • Quality standards must be met and the battery capacity must be at least 80% of the comparable new product
  • Manufacturers must continue to "support" the product (e.g. in the case of cell phones, continue to offer software updates for the model)
  • The certificate is only valid in selected product categories (and only for electronics).

By purchasing "Pre-owned Certified" products instead of new products, customers can extend the life of the product, reduce electronic waste and minimize the extraction of raw materials. These products also come with a one-year warranty.

This award seems very useful to me and it would be desirable if Amazon were to extend this to other product categories.

However, the small print is a big downer: "Certification of pre-owned products is based on standards set by Amazon, but not directly implemented or controlled by Amazon" [4]

Criticism of Amazon's Climate Pledge Friendly certificate

The label is a good idea. It is essential to offer a simple way of orientation. An overarching label therefore makes sense, because it is difficult for customers to keep track of all the certificates.

However, there are significant problems that significantly reduce the usefulness of the Climate Pledge Friendly label.

  1. Lack of independence: all certificates are selected by Amazon. There is no independent committee that selects meaningful certifications and justifies the criteria according to which they are included in the program.
  2. Amazon's own certificates: to take the previous point even further, Amazon has invented two of its own certifications: the Compact by Design and pre-owned Certified awards. Here, Amazon can de facto arbitrarily and at its own discretion label certain products and thus highlight them as Climate Pledge Friendly. I don't want to claim that Amazon is deliberately exploiting this, but this procedure is known as the greenwashing tactic "false certification".
  3. Lack of transparency and sometimes lax certifications: A wide range seems to be represented in 46 external certifications. For example, the Organic Content Standard Blended certificate states that certified products consist of at least 50% organically grown materials. Conversely, this means that half of a product can come from non-organic cultivation and still receive the Climate Pledge Friendly certificate. It would be more transparent to make this clear in the product description so that customers can decide whether they consider this to be "Climate Pledge Friendly".
  4. Pledge Friendly certificate as a marketing tool: The certificates only look at very select aspects of the respective product. Often the most sustainable decision is to consume less or to buy high-quality and long-lasting products. Such aspects are contrary to Amazon's business interests and are not necessarily taken into account in the Climate Pledge Friendly program. With the green label, users could have a clear conscience and buy higher quantities and more frequently.
  5. Supply chain not considered: many of the products do not consider the supply chain or the sustainability of Amazon itself.

Frequently asked questions about the Climate Pledge Friendly Label

What is the Compact by Design label from Amazon?

The Compact by Design label was developed to promote more environmentally friendly packaging and more efficient product sizes. The aim is to reduce space requirements and shipping packaging and thus reduce CO₂ emissions and resource consumption in the shipping process.

The idea behind the Compact by Design label is that certain products are designed in such a way that they take up less space and therefore fit more items on a shipping pallet or require less packaging material. This allows more products to be transported in one truck or plane, making transportation more efficient and causing fewer emissions.

The "Compact by Design" label is part of the Climate Pledge Friendly certificate and is identified as such on the Amazon website.

It is important to note that the Compact by Design label is primarily focused on packaging efficiency and does not necessarily indicate that the product itself is sustainable. However, it can theoretically help to reduce the environmental footprint of the shipping and reduce packaging waste.

However, as described above, it is not applied very consistently and carries the risk of greenwashing through the tacic of hidden compromise.

Which products carry the Climate Pledge Friendly label?

Amazon's Climate Pledge Friendly label can be applied to different types of products, provided they meet the above requirements. The label is not limited to a specific product category.

Here are some examples of products that can carry the Climate Pledge Friendly label:

  1. Household products: Energy-efficient household appliances, water- and energy-efficient cleaning products or sustainable alternatives for everyday use.
  2. Electronics: Energy-saving electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops or televisions that use more energy-efficient technologies and materials.
  3. Food and drink: Organic food, fair trade coffee, environmentally friendly packaging or products with a low environmental footprint during production.
  4. Clothing and accessories: sustainably produced clothing made from environmentally friendly materials, recycled fashion or fair working conditions in production.
  5. Beauty and body care: Natural, cruelty-free or environmentally friendly cosmetic products that are produced and packaged in an environmentally friendly way.
  6. Garden and leisure: Environmentally friendly gardening tools, solar lights or sustainable outdoor equipment.
  7. Office supplies and school materials: Recycled or recyclable office supplies or environmentally friendly school materials.
  8. Home and furnishings: Sustainable furniture, energy-saving lighting or environmentally friendly home textiles.

You can see whether a product carries the label and which certificates justify this by clicking on the Climate Pledge Friendly label.

Ansicht der Zertifizierungen des Climate Friendly Pledge Labels
This is how a Climate Friendly Pledge Label looks like

How can I find out if a product carries the Climate Pledge Friendly label?

  1. Filter for Climate Friendly products: in the filter options on Amazon (where you usually filter by brand, price range or rating, for example), you can check the box for the More sustainable products category.
  2. In the detailed view of a product, the Climate Pledge Friendly label is displayed directly below the ratings.
  3. In the product overview (results) on Amazon, Climate Pledge Friendly products with the corresponding label are highlighted.
Climate Pledge Friendly Label in der Produktübersicht von Amazon
Left without label, right with: Climate Pledge Friendly Label in the Amazon product overview

Are there any independent verifications or certifications for the Climate Pledge Friendly label?

Amazon's "Climate Pledge Friendly" label is based on a combination of independent third-party certifications and Amazon's own certifications such as "Compact by Design" and "Pre-owned Certified".

The external certifications are therefore carried out independently of the third-party providers. Amazon's own "Compact by Design" and "Pre-owned Certified" certificates are not independently verified, nor is the combination of certifications that participate in the Climate Pledge Friendly Label.

What is the difference between "Compact by Design" and "Pre-owned Certified"?

"Compact by Design and Pre-owned Certified are both certifications from Amazon that are part of the Climate Pledge Friendly label.

The main difference between the two certifications is that "Compact by Design" focuses on the design of new products, while "Pre-owned Certified" focuses on the reuse of used products. You can find more details in the article above.

Sources and more information

  1. Climate Pledge Friendly: The certifications |
  2. Compact by Design helps customers discover more sustainable products. |
  3. Search results Compact by Design |
  4. Products with a fresh start |
  5. Amazon | The Climate Pledge