Lifetime of Achievement: Kara Hartnett Hurst

Kara Hartnett Hurst
We honour Kara Hartnett Hurst, Vice-President and Head of Worldwide Sustainability at Amazon, for guiding the company towards a more sustainable future

As Vice President and Head of Worldwide Sustainability at Amazon, Kara Hartnett Hurst is a trailblazer in the sustainability sector who is committed to mitigating global climate change.

She leads the company’s sustainability strategy, which includes addressing its ESG issues and the Climate Pledge team. She also manages sustainability reporting for the company, such as  Amazon’s 2022 Sustainability Report.

Part of her current role is leading Amazon’s investment into renewable projects across Europe. Having led the development and global evolution of environmental and social responsibility at Amazon since 2014, Hurst continues her reign of sustainable transformation.

Delivering Amazon’s climate goals — ahead of time

Prior to joining Amazon, Hurst was CEO of The Sustainability Consortium, a multi-sector group across academia, the retail industry and the public sector. The organisation was named one of Scientific American’s ‘Top Ten World Changing Ideas’ in 2012. 

Before that, she worked as Vice President of BSR where she built several global industry practices and led the company’s New York and Washington DC offices, as well as the global partnership practice with governments, multi-laterals and foundations. 

Hurst also co-founded the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (now the Responsible Business Alliance) and worked in Silicon Valley as Executive Director of OpenVoice, where she built out early teenage channel content for AOL and others. 

She also holds a Bachelor’s degree from Barnard College of Columbia University and an MPP from the University of California, Berkeley.

Having worked across both local and federal government, Hurst now places her focus on driving connections between science, consumer products, technology and sustainability. Part of this is leading Amazon’s Climate Pledge team, which was co-founded by Amazon with Global Optimism

The Climate Pledge is powered by 445 companies in 38 countries around the globe and has a goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. Amazon has pledged to do this by investing in renewable energy, scaling solutions and collaborating with partners to broaden its impact.

Partnering science with sustainability

Amazon’s 2022 Sustainability Report builds on the company’s sustainability progress over the last decade, particularly since 2019 when it co-founded The Climate Pledge and announced its commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions across the entire business by 2040.

The findings showed a 0.4% decrease over the course of the year in absolute carbon emissions as the company continues to move towards net-zero carbon emissions. 

Hurst recognises that more needs to be done in order to combat climate change globally and is continuing work to solidify this mission and make Amazon one of the leading companies in net-zero strategy. Whilst it is already on the 2040 pathway, Hurst is also keen to continue driving the company’s circular economy, recycling work, sustainable transportation and electric vehicles and sustainable products and materials.

At the time of writing this, the company has just announced that it is decarbonising transportation across the entire business by increasing fleet efficiency, expanding the use of low-carbon fuels, and scaling electric and alternative-fuel vehicles.

Speaking on these changes in her report summary, Hurst said: “In 2022, we had more than 9,000 electric delivery vehicles in our global fleet, and 145 million packages were delivered by EVs in the US and Europe.

“Our goal is to get 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from Rivian on the road by 2030. Today, we have more than 5,000 vehicles operating in the U.S. and recently announced the first 300 to hit the road in Germany.”

Hurst also announced on LinkedIn in October 2023 that Amazon has added 39 new renewable energy projects across Europe in 2023 so far, bringing its total to more than 400 across the globe.

“These projects don’t just help us power our operations, they also provide economic benefits to the communities where they’re located. To quantify this impact, our research shows that Amazon’s renewable energy projects in Europe created €2.4bn (US$2.53bn) in economic investment, and more than 3,900 jobs in 2022 alone,” Hurst said.

“We plan to power all of Amazon’s operations with renewable energy by 2025, and we’re getting there in part by continuing to add wind and solar projects around the world.”

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