Kara Hurst is chief sustainability officer at Amazon. The company leads the world in corporate renewables purchasing, and this year made significant investments in direct air capture technology—technology to extract CO2 from the atmosphere. Hurst also spearheaded The Climate Pledge, a group of more than 400 companies that have pledged to be at net-zero emissions by 2040.
What is the single most important action you think the public, or a specific company or government, needs to take in the next year to advance the climate agenda?
For companies and governments, we need to put our capital to work, and talk about the economic benefits of sustainability as well as the environmental ones. We need to think long-term while acting with extreme urgency, and get better about articulating that great sustainability practices have both environmental benefits, as well as positive economic impact in our communities. For example, we’ve seen that job creation and local economic investment are regularly a result of renewable energy projects. For the first time in a long time, we have the resources committed for the long-term, alongside an enabling policy environment, and a broad and growing interest in scaling clean tech. If we can move fast and understand that the solutions won’t come overnight, then we have a shot at really changing industries, impacting communities, and supporting the health of our planet.
What sustainability effort do you hope will gain popularity with the general public this year, and why?
There are many innovations I hope people will continue to learn and be curious about, because I’ve seen firsthand that once people understand that not only are sustainability practices better for the planet, they can actually improve our day-to-day lived experiences. With that in mind, I hope many more people get to experience the effortlessness of driving electric vehicles, especially as the cost of EVs continue to come down. They’re quieter, more fun, and you quickly realize you don’t miss going to the gas station. I also hope products-as-a-service continue to grow to promote a more circular economy—this includes experiences such as renting clothing or devices. I, like many people, want access to things when I need them, but once I started to use products as a service, I realized I didn’t actually need to own the product myself and it could be far more convenient, while also being more sustainable.
What’s the most important climate legislation that could pass in the next year?
I expect that we’ll continue to see legislation that drives transparency and consistency in sustainability reporting, which is incredibly important, especially when this type of regulation helps drive operational progress forward, faster. While that will continue to ground corporations, NGOs, and others, we will also see legislation that supports new technology development and deployment, such as circular materials, batteries, or sustainable aviation fuels. At Amazon, we ask our people to both “Think Big” and “Dive Deep” simultaneously, which means you have to look out over the horizon and invent things that today seem impossible to do at scale—like new cloud computing technologies that are more efficient, new flexible materials, or new financial mechanisms to support the growth of renewable energy. But when we think big and dive deeply into the execution details, we end up realizing that a lot more is possible, and we can move fast and put capital to work. The more we see legislation that supports that same premise—and not only the development but also the scalability and deployment of new clean technologies—the quicker the pace of change will become.
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