Ted Decker, President and CEO
2455 Paces Ferry Rd. Nw
Atlanta, GA 30339
Ron Jarvis, Chief Sustainability Officer
Ann-Marie Campbell, Executive Vice President, U.S. Stores and International Operations
Kimberly Scardino, Senior Vice President, Business Transformation and ESG Chair
John Deaton, Executive Vice President, Supply Chain and Product Development
We, the undersigned members of the medical community, write to request your urgent attention and action to reduce and eliminate harmful pollution from your maritime cargo imports. While international ocean shipping is oftentimes out of the spotlight, the air pollution emissions from this sector have direct health impacts on coastal and port communities. We know Home Depot cares deeply about equity, justice and public health. However, your continued inaction on addressing the pollution from cargo shipping in your supply chain does not align with these core corporate values.
Home Depot is the largest home improvement retail importer into the United States, and relies heavily on East Coast ports such as Newark and Savannah. In 2021, your company emitted approximately 427,028 metric tons of greenhouse gasses to import 495,255 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs). In addition to climate pollution, the fossil-fueled maritime emissions in your supply chain also emitted over 18,000 metric tons of health-damaging criteria pollutants, including SOx, NOx, particulate matter, black carbon and carbon monoxide.
These pollutants are known to pose serious risks to public health, including increased rates of premature deaths from cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as childhood asthma. The reality is that those living nearest to ports, typically working-class Black and Brown communities, suffer the greatest harm from cargo shipping pollution. Children in these communities are among the most vulnerable to the health impacts of air pollution exposure. A 2018 study projected that in a business-as-usual scenario, exposure to ship emissions would result in over 400,000 premature deaths worldwide from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease and 14 million cases of childhood asthma in 2020.
Home Depot’s ocean import practices have an immense impact on local communities. In 2021, Home Depot was responsible for 88,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions on voyages to the Port of Newark, in addition to the highest levels of air pollution among companies studied. One in four Newark children suffer from respiratory asthma leading to high rates of school absenteeism, and cancer risk from air quality is highest closest to the port. In Home Depot’s home state of Georgia, the port-adjacent communities in Savannah have borne the brunt of Home Depot’s polluting practices. Home Depot’s ocean imports led to over 100,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions being pumped into the air, exacerbating the existing public health disparities in a community where 67% of people living within two miles of the port are people of color.
Home Depot has an opportunity to provide leadership and a paradigm shift in the shipping sector. As a heavyweight in the furniture and home improvement industry who is also a major cargo carrier client, an urgent commitment to accelerate the production of fossil-free, zero-emission cargo ships would be impactful. Other major retail brands such as Target, Amazon and IKEA are taking steps to reduce and eliminate the air and climate pollution from the maritime shipping in their supply chains. Consumers would look to Home Depot as an environmental leader, increasing confidence and value in the brand.
Solutions to reduce and eliminate the air and climate pollution from international shipping exist today. Cargo vessels can reduce speeds to lower fuel consumption, implement efficiency retrofits on existing ships, immediately switch to the cleanest fuel currently available — marine gas oil — while transitioning to fossil-free vessels, and plug vessels into the local electricity grid — commonly called “shore power” — while at berth to eliminate localized air pollution while in port. Cargo carriers can and should invest in fossil-free, zero-emission shipping technologies, such as green hydrogen-based fuels, renewable-powered charging stations for ships idling offshore, battery-power storage and wind-assisted propulsion.
We urge you to be the climate and public health champion that port and coastal communities need by committing to immediately reduce and completely eliminate maritime emissions no later than 2030.
If you are a medical professional and would like to sign our Open Letter to Home Depot From the Medical Community, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.