Ecommerce creates nearly 3 times less CO2 than physical retail

Ecommerce has a much smaller impact on the environment compared to physical retail stores, resulting in between 1.5 and 2.9 times lower greenhouse gas emissions.

According to a new independent report commissioned by Amazon and published by Oliver Wyman and LAE, ecommerce in Europe has a lower environmental impact than physical non-food retail on average.

In the “nominal case”, defined as the “most common situation”, driving to a physical store emits between three and six times more CO2e than ordering a non-food product online.

Driving to a store, buying one product and returning home emits around 4100g of CO2e, while ordering online emits around 900g, the research stated.

In the “average case”, which reflects multiple real-life situations rather than just the most common, emissions were 2000 CO2e for shopping in a physical store and 800g for ordering online.

According to the research, to calculate the “average case” a number of consumer behaviors were factored in, including using a car, returning products and buying multiple products on one trip.

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Conversely, factors like cross border orders, supply chain configurations, building energy consumption and last mile transportation were all factored in to the ecommerce orders average figure.

Ecommerce was also found to create four to nine times less traffic than trips to physical stores, occupy less land overall and create more jobs than its physical counterpart.

“Direct employment in retail increased by 1.3 million on a net basis from 2008 to 2018 in the eight countries studied,” the research suggested.

“Of these jobs, about 300,000 were in e-commerce and 1 million in physical retail. In addition, one direct e-commerce job leads to another 1.2 indirect jobs in fulfilment and delivery. One direct physical retail job requires another 0.2 indirect job in fulfilment and delivery.”

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