Walmart tops retail list of American maritime import polluters

Liners, already feeling the heat from their major clients to slash their carbon footprint, will likely get more urgent calls following the release today of a report highlighting which retail chains are polluting the most in America thanks to their shipping choices.

A study released from NGOs Pacific Environment and is the first report to quantify the environmental and public health impacts from some of the biggest American retailers’ reliance on overseas manufacturing and fossil-fuelled, transoceanic shipping.

By cross referencing a comprehensive set of cargo manifests with a dataset on individual ship emissions, researchers were able to estimate the pollution associated with each unit of cargo on shipping routes heading to the US and, for the first time, assign those emissions to retail companies. Walmart topped the list, responsible for 3.7m tons of climate pollution from its shipping practices in 2019, more than an entire coal-fired power plant emits in a year. Target, IKEA, Amazon, and eleven other companies were also investigated.

“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 US port communities, and adds to the climate emergency,” said Madeline Rose, climate campaign director for Pacific Environment.

A poll conducted last October for Pacific Environment by Yale University, George Mason University and Climate Nexus found that 74% of American voters would be more likely to shop at companies that use cleaner ways to ship their goods. The poll also found that 70% of American voters would continue to shop at these brands even if using clean ships raised the price of their goods.

Maersk, the world’s largest containerline, revealed in February that around half of its largest customers have set – or are in the process of setting – ambitious science-based or zero carbon targets for their supply chains, and the figure is on the rise.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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