The global carbon footprint calculation has shown that e-commerce is more sustainable than trading at traditional point-of-sale. Transport is the main environmental factor and consolidation of supply makes e-commerce more efficient in this regard. In the future, thanks to the continuous optimization of the supply chain, we can expect a further decline in emissions. This will provide many benefits, both in terms of environmental impact and economic efficiency of business operations.
Prologis Research analysts have identified three main aspects of sustainability that guarantee significant and long-term benefits. They include strategic location, type of sales channel and use of technology.
Currently, the supply chain enables the shortening of the distance between the operations center and end consumers. This leads to a reduction in the total distance traveled by vehicles, ultimately reducing carbon dioxide emissions and lowering operating costs.
Placing goods in close proximity to end consumers has environmental benefits. Combining parcel deliveries allows you to maximize the amount of goods transported within the city. Last Touch® facilities and municipal distribution centers not only ensure proximity to the target customer, but also enable the reduction of emissions from transport, ensuring more efficient distribution (Figure 1). Analytical and technological solutions enabling the selection of the most optimal routes help in developing an effective delivery strategy.
Research shows that the environmental impact of transport in the e-commerce model is half that of individual purchases in a brick-and-mortar store (Figure 2), even if we take into account the higher percentage of returns of purchased products than in the classic retail model.
E-commerce entities seek to reduce costs through order consolidation and network optimization. Consolidating the flow of goods into an aggregated and optimized network ensures a 50% lower carbon footprint of online purchases compared to traditional commerce. This means that e-commerce is more sustainable in this respect than trading at point-of-sale. Diversified shopping habits have different environmental effects. The carbon footprint of individual customer purchases depends, among others on the size of his basket, the number of trips to the store or the scale of returns.
A consumer shopping online does not have to travel to the store, sometimes even several times, to search, compare and then buy a product. In e-commerce, the order is combined with the orders of other customers, placed in one delivery and delivered on the same route.
As MIT emphasizes in its research , this method of delivery is much more efficient than individual shopping trips and leaves a lower carbon footprint. Moreover, the greater the number of products ordered via the Internet, the greater the efficiency of e-commerce. In e-commerce, however, we deal with more packaging than in the case of stationary sales. Product protection materials are estimated to generate around 1 kg of CO2 equivalent and account for most of the environmental impact of online shopping. However, it is still a much lower value (by approx. 25%) than the impact of transport in traditional trade (Figure 2). Technology
The increase in the use of energy from renewable sources and the increasing number of implementations of sustainable construction technologies contribute to reducing the carbon footprint produced by building owners and tenants. Short- and long-term benefits become reality. Deliveries with electric vehicles are cost effective. More than 90% of all journeys made by vans are within 100 miles (160 km), which is possible to travel
by emission-free vehicles. The popularization of electric cars in logistics companies can reduce the environmental impact of e-commerce by up to half. From a business perspective, the key to success is offering customers the ability to directly make sustainable trade decisions. In addition, customers investing in environmentally friendly technologies maintain an advantage over the competition and gain the favor of business partners and investors, i.e. groups that will pay more and more attention to responsible and sustainable trade issues over time.
In Europe, technologies supporting sustainable transport are gaining popularity. Larger European cities have introduced zero-emission zones and very low-emission zones. Trucks can enter them only at night, when the traffic is the least and they deliver parcels to points located as close as possible to end recipients. In the morning, transport bikes and electric vans deliver packages to consumers’ doors. Conclusion – night deliveries mean efficient unloading and lower emissions.
Logistics real estate is the leader among commercial properties in terms of energy efficiency. This is due to the use of sustainable technological and design solutions. In the e-commerce era, the strategic location of a logistics property is a key factor in optimizing your supply chain and running a sustainable business. Concentrating deliveries in the urban area makes it possible to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and makes what was only an option yesterday a requirement.
At the same time, the development of e-commerce supports the conduct of sustainable activities. Replacing many shopping trips with direct home deliveries is a more advantageous solution, even when considering additional packaging and a higher return rate of purchased products.
Moreover, with increasing environmental awareness and the demand for ecological consumer goods, the popularity of electric vehicles and environmentally friendly transport technologies is growing. For a proper understanding of what sustainable development is, two concepts are crucial: the concept of basic needs and the idea of limited opportunities, and especially the resilience of the world’s ecological system.
The definitions of these terms are as follows
Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without jeopardizing the ability to meet the needs of future generations. It is based on two basic concepts:
- the concept of “needs”, in particular the basic needs of the world’s poorest, which must be given the highest priority;
- the concept of limitations, the imposed ability of the environment to meet the current and future needs by the state of the art and social organization.
The definition from the Brundtland report is usually cited in abbreviated form. There has been little debate in specialist circles about the concept of limited opportunities. It derives its pedigree from the famous opinion of the Club of Rome “Limits to Growth”. According to this opinion, in order to ensure the continued existence of life on Earth and the possibility of meeting the basic needs of all people and future generations, it is necessary to take care of the sustainable development of all areas of life and human activity.