Environmental report exposes 15 major retail companies as top maritime transport polluters

Two non-governmental organizations, Stand.earth and Pacific Environment, released a report quantifying the emissions from cargo ships transporting commercial goods for fifteen retail moguls. The fifteen retail companies reportedly responsible for significant contributions to climate and air pollution include Walmart, Ashley Furniture, Target, Dole, Home Depot, Chiquita, Ikea, Amazon, Samsung, Nike, LG, Redbull, Family Dollar, Williams-Sonoma, and Lowes.

The research suggests that these fossil-fueled ships emit massive amounts of sulfur oxide (SOx), nitrous oxide (NOx), and particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5). These toxic pollutants are strongly linked to cancer, asthma, lung failure, heart disease, and they create smog and increase ocean acidity. According to the report, these retail companies have produced “7.3 times more sulfur oxide than 2 billion trucks and cars, as much smog-forming nitrous oxide as 27.4 million trucks and cars, and as much particulate matter 2.5 as the entire U.S. mining industry.” The research also suggests that maritime shipping emissions are tied to about 6.4 million global childhood asthma cases and 260,000 premature deaths annually. Those in low-income communities of color are the most affected. 

Data from the report represents only a fraction of actual emissions because estimates were made based on information from cross-referencing cargo manifests and U.S. import data from 2019, which was used to produce pollution estimates for each unit of cargo and even for each retailer. However, researchers consider their assessments to be conservative due to the challenges in identifying shell companies and because the study did not include the ‘backhaul’ of the vessels or attempt to geolocate emissions impacts. 

According to the report, “On average, we were able to verify emissions for just over a fifth of the container shipments of these retail companies.”

Madeline Rose, the Climate Campaign Director of Pacific Environment, “Major retail companies are directly responsible for the dirty air that sickens our youth with asthma, leads to thousands of premature deaths a year in U.S. port communities, and adds to the climate emergency. We are demanding that these practices change.”

The report’s authors wrote, “Pacific Environment and Stand.earth produced this report to improve public understanding and oversight of corporate responsibility for shipping industry emissions.” Their goal is to reduce maritime emissions with the help of policymakers who can create more regulations within the shipping industry and by calling on major retailers to commit to 100% zero-emissions shipping by 2030. 

Featured image credit: CC0 Public Domain.

Suzanna DeCosta

Digital Journalist, Pacific Environment Weekly

Leave a Reply