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Confession: E-commerce is bad for the environment

Sunday was Earth Day 2018, an annual worldwide movement to support environmental protection and the perfect time to reflect on how far we’ve come, as a society, in reducing our environmental impact. But more importantly, it’s also a time to reflect on what we can do better.

On the world stage, the Australian government has already taken positive strides to reduce its carbon footprint. In 2015, Australia became a signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement, committing to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 – something we should all be proud of.

However, those of us invested in the e-commerce industry cannot simply leave environmental protection to the government. We need to shoulder more responsibility for reducing our carbon footprint and creating a safe, sustainable environment within which we can comfortably live and do business for generations to come.

The real cost of e-commerce

According to a recent report by NAB, online shopping is increasing 14 per cent year-on-year, and last year, Aussies spent upwards of $24 billion in online sales.

It doesn’t stop there: The Statistics Portal anticipates global e-commerce sales will double between now and 2021. And within this global context, consulting firm A.T. Kearney ranks Australia’s e-commerce market ‘attractiveness’ as tenth in the world, the result of continued growth, an improving economy and increased consumer confidence.

This is great news for Aussie e-commerce, and I can’t wait to see the day that online shopping becomes the norm in Australia. But truth be told, it’s not great news for the environment. More home deliveries means more delivery vehicles on the road, many of which will be running on diesel fuel (one of the biggest carbon contributors in existence).

In fact, the e-commerce boom is already starting to reveal its carbon footprint, as Australia’s transport emissions recorded in mid-2017 were the highest on record.

E-commerce is sweeping the world and will undoubtedly be a dominant force in years to come. So as we look to the future of our industry, we cannot be blinded by potential profit margins and must keep in mind the environmental future of the country and world we love.

To put it simply, either we go carbon neutral, or we risk destroying the environment that enables us to do business.

Jumping on the carbon neutral bandwagon

Becoming a 100 per cent carbon-neutral entity can seem an unconquerable hurdle, but when broken down into smaller leaps it can be achieved with relative ease over time. An easy and immediate first step for e-commerce companies is working with carbon-neutral, environmentally-friendly products and services.

For example, take a look at the list of Australia’s B Corp companies. These are organisations that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency, so choosing to do business with any one of them is making an environmentally conscious decision.

For online retail companies, it’s especially important to consider the cost of your delivery and transportation services: there are a lot of delivery services out there that truly don’t give a toss about the environment, but there are ones that do. Know the difference, and choose business partners who will deliver not only your products, but also the promise of a cleaner future for tomorrow.

It is possible to do well as a company while doing good things for the environment, and the onus is on us as e-commerce leaders to act now and lead by example when it comes to environmental protection.

We operate in a delicate world, one in which the e-commerce industry will continue to grow, and one that our customers need us to help them protect by making informed, socially conscious decisions that consider the environment we value so dearly.

James Chin Moody is co-founder and CEO of Sendle, Australia’s first 100 per cent carbon neutral, door-to-door delivery service and a certified B Corporation. 

Photo by: John Westock on Unsplash

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