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E-commerce and its environmental affects

E-commerce and its environmental affects

E-commerce and its environmental affects

What is E-commerce?

E-commerce has taken over the world and become our new normality. Encouraged by the globalisation of today’s economies, the ability to find, buy and try new products has become one of the easiest processes for consumers. It is a process that is fundamental for a large majority of business around the world. Its variety and efficiency are unbeatable with products available 24/7 and arriving at your door the next day. Not only does e-commerce have benefits for the consumer but also firms. By using e-commerce, firms may lower costs and wider product ranges. It also is increasingly easier to promote your brand and track analytics to better understand and monitor customer tastes and behaviour.

How has the economy impacted its use?

Within the last 2 years, due to the global pandemic, the use of e-commerce became reliant on due to the ability to find all you need from the comfort of your own home. During this time using e-commerce, companies where able to promote their brand and build strong customer relations now more than ever. As consumers lost their ability to high street shop, websites became a necessity for firms to keep consumers informed on not only products and services but how to pandemic had affected how they worked pre-covid. During 2020 pre-covid and post-covid worldwide e-commerce revenue increased by 19%. Through the consumer transition into online sales channels, food and personal care products saw a revenue increase of 26% during that same time period. Showing the potential e-commerce has in today’s society.

The environmental impacts…

Online shopping itself is reported to have 1.5-2.9 times fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to in-person shopping due to less land being used and less consumers travelling, traffic etc. However, shopping online has critical consequences. Returning items bought online is likely to be free and simple for the consumer, but have you ever considered what happens to those items being returned? Returns currently cost UK retailers £60 billion annually. Fashion retailers make up 56% of returns in the UK. Over half of returns made within the UK end up in landfill. Returns are responsible for over 5 billion pounds of waste each year and each year landfills are responsible for 14 megatons of co2 gas.


How can sustainability be increased?

The increase in greenhouse gas emissions using e-commerce is unsustainable. There are ways to make online shopping more environmentally friendly. One way is to ban sending returns to places such as landfill, etc. 30% of shopper’s over-order items and return as part of their shopping, research Barclaycard discovered. This has added greatly to the number of returned products in the UK. One way in which retailers can avoid this would be by removing a free returns policy which may discourage shoppers from purposely overbuying. Options such as reselling goods that still fit the expected standard or donating goods to causes instead of destroying them would also be a greener option for firms to tackle this issue. France have brought in a ban on firms destroying goods that can instead be resold or donated. Scotland is likely to follow suit in 2022 and the European union are thinking to follow similar intervention by forcing firms to find alternatives to destroying goods and sending them to landfill. Companies such as fresh start help with this process by taking the donated goods, in their case white goods and household items, and give them to those in need. This system then aids two causes at once through the cycle.

The future of e-commerce


It is apparent that the world of e-commerce needs to see a shift in how it is operated. Small changes make a big difference and change that can be made almost instantaneously is the use of eco-friendly packaging. Switching from single-use plastic to paper allows a small fight against plastic pollution and offers a more environmentally friendly option which can be easily recycled or reused by the consumer. A change already on its way is a £200 a tonne tax on any plastic packaging containing less than 30% recycled contents. This tax will be put in place on April 1st, 2022, within the UK. Long term changes that will need to be seen are the banning of sending returned items to landfill and reducing carbon footprints by changing the methods of delivery by introducing the use of electric vehicles etc. The change starts with educating. Making these facts transparent and showcasing the reality of the consequences faced when using e-commerce to consumers and firms alike, allows for a better understanding and a willingness to change.

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