E-commerce: Would you pick slower delivery to cut your carbon footprint?

·2-min read
Of those who chose the fastest shipping option, 56% ultimately opted for a slower delivery time once informed of the corresponding carbon emissions.

Does knowing the carbon emissions of an order being shipped from the other side of the planet encourage consumers to choose eco-responsible delivery options, even if it means waiting a little longer to get the goods? That's what recent studies suggest.

Closely related to the famous Black Friday event, Cyber Monday (falling November 29 this year) is exclusively dedicated to online deals and discounts. But low prices might not be the only thing influencing consumer choices this year. A recent study shows that carbon labeling could potentially encourage shoppers to opt for more sustainable shipping methods.

Conducted by researchers at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and published in the Journal of the Transportation Research Board, the survey focused on the carbon emissions linked to each mode of delivery among the various shipping options available on the popular Chinese e-commerce platform, Taobao.

To estimate the carbon emissions (in kilograms) associated with shipping packages, the researchers took into account the mode of transportation, the distance traveled and the weight of the items purchased. According to their calculations, shipping packages by sea was the least polluting option.

The 188 people who took part in the experiment were asked to choose between several shipping methods with varying prices and delivery times. Participants were informed of the associated carbon emissions before being given the chance to switch choices if they wished.

The results showed that, of those who chose the fastest shipping option, 56% ultimately opted for a slower delivery time once informed of the corresponding carbon emissions. "Our results show that sharing information about the emissions of different e-commerce shipping options can help promote more sustainable choices and potentially facilitate greener logistics operations," notes the study co-author, SUTD associate professor Lynette Cheah.

With its small sample size, this study alone cannot effectively be used to identify major trends for the future. Nevertheless, the research does point to an interesting avenue to explore. A separate study , conducted in July by Swedish and Danish researchers, suggests that informing consumers of the environmental impact of a food product through labeling could push them to choose greener alternatives. However, the researchers point out that for this kind of labelling to have the desired effect, it should be mandatory.

Léa Drouelle

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