How to decarbonize the 2-stroke silencer repackaging

Subject expert
CANDRIAM

At first glance, the e-commerce industry has climate advantages: instead of every consumer doing all the errands by car, a service provider brings many parcels to the door with just one trip. But if you take a closer look, the climate balance looks less good.

Vehicle emissions

Delivery vehicles emit significantly more CO due to their high weight2 out as private cars. In addition, not everyone drives their car to go shopping. Many live in cities where distances are shorter and public transport such as buses and trains are used.

In fact, only a consistent switch to all-electric vehicles could make it possible for online retail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in cities. The effect would then be similar to that of consumers walking, public transport or cycling to downtown shops.

Change in consumer behavior

But it's not just transport that pollutes the environment: e-commerce increases the propensity to consume and the resulting external environmental costs. Because the ease with which it is possible to order from a huge range with a click of the mouse contributes to the success of online trading.

In the fashion industry, for example, sales are boosted by the constant renewal of collections and low sales prices. When ordering online, it has been customary for years that some items are returned by customers - for example, because a product is ordered in different sizes so that one of them fits perfectly.

This return rate has a significant influence on the CO2-Emissions from e-commerce. The returns increase the total emission of carbon dioxide and worsen the environmental balance. Often the returned products are shipped to Asia for repackaging or simply destroyed. According to an NGO, the latter method is the rule at Amazon.

It should be noted that more and more brick-and-mortar retailers are adopting online business practices and being generous with product returns in order to remain competitive.

No going back, but several ways forward

Like many innovations brought about by technological change, the development of e-commerce does not automatically lead to an improvement in terms of the environmental balance. The environmental impact will depend on how consumers take advantage of the new opportunities. If online retail fuels excessive consumption of unsustainable goods, most of which are sent back, the impact on climate change will increase - which goes against the goals of climate neutrality.

Our analyzes of companies from the relevant industry and the discussions about ESG aspects, on which we meet with the managing directors, aim to promote the transition to purely electric vehicle fleets and their supply with 100 percent renewable energy. It is true that these measures will not prevent other negative effects, in particular the production of waste or the consumption of natural resources. But the first steps are a start in coping with climate change, to which the industry is unfortunately still contributing every time the doorbell rings.