How can Britain improve class mobility

Climate-damaging parcel frenzy?

Online shopping: Less individual traffic

According to a Swedish study from 2016, online orders can help people take fewer car trips to shop in brick-and-mortar stores. Overall, the scientists expect Sweden to have 2 percent lower CO2 emissions in 2030 compared to 2012 due to the increasing popularity of online business.

Greenhouse gas emissions when shopping for clothes in brick-and-mortar stores depend on the distance of the consumer to the shop he visits and the means of transport. According to the results of an analysis from Switzerland from 2018, only shopping tours that are done by public transport can show similarly low CO2 emissions as online orders.

CO2 balance: delivery method is decisive

A study from 2015 examines the greenhouse gas emissions in stationary retail and the various delivery routes of online retail for Great Britain. According to the study, the greenhouse gas emissions of shopping in brick-and-mortar retail are not only due to the customer's approach, but also due to the operation of the store on site.

In the studies for Great Britain, emissions are comprehensively taken into account for brick-and-mortar retail and online retailing that a product causes from completion in the factory to delivery to the end customer. The study takes into account the fact that online shopping only replaces shopping in stores to a certain extent. In addition, returns and journeys to post stations are taken into account because the delivery could not be delivered.

The researchers in the British study emphasize that the type of delivery in online retail is largely responsible for how many greenhouse gases are released. For the delivery of special goods - such as purchases that are not made weekly - sending via parcel services is the most attractive. Parcel delivery by DHL, Hermes and Co. is said to be comparatively low in emissions, primarily because the delivery routes for each item of goods delivered are relatively short and, as a rule, other deliveries are also made in the immediate vicinity. For larger orders, delivery by parcel services is less attractive as they are split up more often in order to speed up delivery.

For orders between 2 and 22 articles, the stationary trade has an advantage if the customers do not come to the shop to shop, but the articles are delivered from the shops. In contrast to the regular division of orders by parcel services, the ordered items are usually delivered in bundles. In addition, the delivery routes to the customer are relatively short when delivering through the stationary trade.

Since storage, sorting and logistics are more complex and energy-intensive in relatively small shops than in larger logistics centers, the efficiency advantage of larger logistics centers of large online retailers outweighs the longer delivery routes for larger orders compared to delivery by stationary retailers.

Overall, according to the study, online orders offer a delivery method for every size of purchase that causes fewer greenhouse gas emissions than stationary retail. An earlier British study that examined CO2 emissions from the “last mile” came to similar conclusions. However, she emphasizes that the CO2 balance in stationary retail improves as soon as shopping is combined with other activities, such as the way back from work.

Optimize online deliveries

The empirical studies not only illustrate that online shopping can be more climate-friendly than going to brick-and-mortar stores, they also identify numerous opportunities for improvement. Greenhouse gas emissions in online trading could be reduced, in particular through better delivery and returns management.

If parcels cannot be delivered directly, this increases CO2 emissions, as either another delivery attempt has to be made or the recipient has to go to the post office for collection. There are various options for optimization in this regard. On the one hand, pre-announced delivery windows increase the likelihood of meeting the recipient. On the other hand, the delivery time can be better coordinated with the customer with the help of artificial intelligence. Locally set up parcel boxes and doors controlled remotely via Smarthome can also help ensure that delivery is successful at the first attempt.

There is also room for improvement with regard to returns. If the returns are brought to a drop-off point by the consumer by car, the CO2 emissions are twelve times higher than when they are returned by a delivery service on their delivery tour.

Another adjustment screw for reducing CO2 is reducing the return rate. While, according to data from PostNord, groceries are returned in just 1.3 percent of all cases, almost every third parcel is returned in the clothing sector. The reason for this is very simple: garments often don't fit properly. Returns in the clothing sector could therefore primarily be achieved through better information about the accuracy of fit, for example through images evaluated by artificial intelligence. Modern smartphones can already measure spatial distances today. In the future, you could also determine the right pants size.

Online shopping: a real climate package

Online orders cause CO2. But even walking or driving to the shop at a local retailer is not emission-free, also because the retailer uses energy to provide the goods on site. Critics should therefore look carefully. Online orders can make a contribution to climate protection, especially if they contain several goods and replace purchases in brick-and-mortar stores.
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