The impact on the climate of companies such as Shell or Tata Steel is visible to everyone. But flat the climate impact of Ecommerce not off. This may be less obvious and tangible, but not necessarily less large if you add up all the links in the chain. It could be more sustainable. Think of alternative delivery options, packaging techniques and reducing return volumes. In line with the climate summit in Glasgow, Ecommerce Result lists a number of developments.
They were all there. World leaders, NGO directors, activists and, last but not least, the CEOs of global companies. And everyone was excited, concerned about climate change, and urging each other to action. Most CEOs flew in on their private jets to make a statement about their green ambitions.
Jeff Bezos came to Glasgow in his Gulfstream, 650ER, a legendary business jet valued at a whopping €56 million. After his high-profile rocket flight in July, the Amazon owner and the world's richest man noted how fragile our Earth looks from space. "We must all stand together to protect the world," he said. Billionaire Jeff Bezos also 'thinks green'.
Plant trees in Africa to reduce climate impact Ecommerce
With his almighty Amazon, we can see Jeff Bezos as the personification of what Ecommerce brings about. The world has changed in a short time. The impact of Ecommerce on society and our behavior is devastating. And with it the climate impact of Ecommerce. It is doubtful whether someone like Jeff Bezos will change that. He mainly used the climate summit in Glasgow as a PR stage. By bringing his fund to plant trees in Africa to the attention of the crème de la crème of our planet. A drop in the ocean.
But how big is the climate impact of Ecommerce actually? Initially, the effects were estimated as positive. After all, by shopping online, consumers used their car less often. That saves CO2 emissions. But that's thinking a bit too simple. Because Ecommerce provides a revolutionary lowering of the threshold when ordering products and articles. The convenience, comparing and buying from the comfort of your home, is enormous, the certainty that you can return items free of charge if they do not suit you, takes all the brakes off. Smart algorithms provide extra impulses in the form of recommendations, reviews and feelings of urgency. You will miss something. The result: more transactions, more transport movements, more emissions.
'Ordered today, delivered tomorrow' is not sustainable
Although consumers use their car less often, parcel deliverers work long hours. If you add up all the delivery vans in the cities, including the grocery and meal deliverers, this results in substantial CO2 emissions. There is much to be gained here. Diesels are disappearing from the cityscape, delivery drivers by bicycle are gaining ground, the electrification of vehicle fleets is getting underway, there is already serious philosophizing about delivery by drone, distribution via collection points is on the rise, flexibility in delivery options is increasing.
Distribution and delivery methodologies are the focus of attention. Webshops that aspire to a green and climate-friendly image would do well to offer their customers more delivery options and to actively raise awareness about less environmentally harmful delivery alternatives. Is 'ordered today delivered tomorrow' really of added value? Few consumers realize that their high demands on the speed of delivery have an impact on the total logistics chain behind every delivered package. This international chain has become very complicated due to Ecommerce and delivery speed leads to waste and unnecessary CO2-emitting kilometers.
B2C Europe, a sister company of container transport giant Maersk, advises larger Ecommerce entrepreneurs to think better about smart, international transport solutions and to communicate well to customers that there is another way. By the optimize package holiday and customers in this process, a lot of empty transport capacity can be avoided. It's a matter of working together, combining and opting for local solutions as much as possible. This means that the climate impact of Ecommerce can be reduced without compromising the growth of the sector or the customer experience.
A good packaging strategy can help make Ecommerce
Another hot topic is the way in which the sector deals with packaging. In view of the complicated international distribution flows, good packaging is inevitable. After all, in a distribution chain with greatly increased numbers of intermediate stops – from a fuel-guzzling container ship to the delivery person at the door – the risk of damage or loss is high. That is not good for the customer experience and as a webshop or platform you rarely get a second chance.
So is a deliberate packaging strategy very important, preferably based on knowledge of what your customers expect and value. The looks of packaging and the joy of unpacking contribute significantly to the customer experience. But excess is harmful and an increasing number of consumers are aware of the negative impact of packaging materials on the environment. It pays to think about this and the application of sustainable, recyclable packaging is the least the sector can do to reduce the climate impact of Ecommerce.
The climate pays a high price for 'not good, money back'
Another tricky point. The returns. The legally regulated return and refund right that applies to Ecommerce is one of the most important barrier-lowering factors for buying online. After all, you cannot see, feel or try on products. No problem, as long as the certainty of 'not good, money back' exists. However, there is a climate-unfriendly price tag. After all, products have to be packed, transported and delivered again – this time not to the customer, but to the distribution center. And there the question is then very much whether the products can be put back into circulation or destroyed.
Everyone has seen images of batches being dumped into the incinerator or shredder. The most poignant is the online fashion sector. On average, half of all clothing that is delivered to consumers via web shops is returned! In the distribution centers everything is selected and checked, which costs a lot of money. For that reason, there are already web shops that tell their customers: you will get your money back, but see what you do with your order. But most webshops do their best to make returned items in order and ready for sale, through their own channels or buyers. This does not alter the fact that millions of kilograms of textiles are incinerated worldwide. In the Netherlands this concerns 1.2 million items of clothing per year! And we're only talking about online fashion.
Fit and measure with a self-made avatar
The increasing interest in used clothing and products, such as the popularity of platforms such as Vinted and Marktplaats or Ebay, offers some relief. In addition, Ecommerce entrepreneurs can do a lot themselves to somewhat curb the number of returns. honest and thorough product information can make all the difference. Think of correct photos, good information about dimensions and sizes, and sufficient specifications. Again, the challenge here is to raise awareness among customers, although that seems to conflict with the mission to sell as much as possible.
It is expected that the application of Augmented Reality will contribute to making online shopping more sustainable. More and more fashion brands are offering the technology to help you as a consumer own avatar to create and try on clothes online. The margins of error are getting smaller and smaller. Other sectors will follow. Think of Charlie Temple, the online optician who has a virtual fitting room operational. Data and AI-based technologies will certainly contribute to gradually reducing the climate impact of Ecommerce. Add to that Amazon boss Jeff Bezos' selfless fund to plant trees on the African continent, and we, as the Ecommerce industry, don't have to worry about polar bears in the Arctic anymore.