AAmazon has revealed the companies that make its branded products for the first time. The e-commerce giant published a list of suppliers on its website earlier this month that details the names and locations of manufacturers all over the world that produce official Amazon apparel, consumer electronics, and housewares.
The 51-page list is notable given that, like other major retailers, Amazon has previously concealed its supply chain from the public and its competitors, which made the human and environmental impact of its business difficult to comprehend. It also confirms OneZero’s report on the lifecycle of AmazonBasics’ AA alkaline battery, a popular in-house item produced by the Japanese-owned battery company FDK in West Java, Indonesia.
Hundreds of Amazon suppliers named in the document are located in China and India — places where inhumane working conditions at some factories and lax labor laws can drive down the cost of operations. At the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China, for example, Amazon Echo and Kindle products were made using illegal child labor, reported the Guardian.
Some of the countries where Amazon has only one or two suppliers still raise questions about the impact of its supply chain. In Madagascar’s capital of Antananarivo, for instance, Amazon employs two clothing factories, Aquarelle Madagascar SA and Gama Textile Madagascar Sarl, which are part of the island’s textile hub. Meanwhile, Madagascar has one of the world’s highest poverty rates.
Amazon also converted the list into an interactive map that can be sorted by the number of people working at a given factory.
It’s unclear why Amazon is only now disclosing this information.
“It is far from what I would deem as a full disclosure, but is a step in the right direction,” Alexis Bateman, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sustainable Supply Chains project, told OneZero.
The data is part of Amazon’s sustainability website, which lays out a strategy for reducing its carbon footprint. In September, CEO Jeff Bezos announced that Amazon would reach net zero carbon by 2040, but only after Amazon employees urged the company to meaningfully act on climate change.
In its current form, the list raises more questions than answers. Amazon could reveal much more about its operations, such as the amount of product it buys from a supplier, how it’s auditing these facilities, and how they’re performing according to its corporate standards.
Amazon has yet to disclose where its raw materials are sourced, for instance. With something like a battery, that would mean releasing the locations of mines where basic ingredients — magnesium, lithium, zinc, for example — are exhumed from the earth.
Amazon could also reveal granular environmental impact estimates which it only reports in aggregate. Right now, carbon emissions data from Amazon-branded products is lumped in with other factors such as business travel, which obfuscates how dirty these operations may really be.
Bateman said that even Amazon itself likely doesn’t fully understand everything about its supply chain, and the list was probably difficult for the company to compile. “In a perfect world,” she said, “you’d want Amazon to know about every product on their platform.”