The Environmental Impact of E-commerce
E-commerce is continuously increasing but its environmental impact remains unclear. Meanwhile, climate change is one of the main challenges of today, which further stresses the importance of evaluating the environmental implications of e-commerce.
The development of e-commerce has led manufacturers to change their way of working. More manufacturers are starting to sell their products directly to the consumers via an online channel, in addition to the traditional retailing channel, via a physical store. Therefore, manufacturers need to be aware of the main factors that impact the environment and their respective significance, to be able to establish an environmentally sound and sustainable e-commerce. Moreover, existing research cannot provide a clear answer to whether e-commerce is better or worse in comparison to traditional retailing, from an environmental perspective.
To investigate this further, a case study was conducted in collaboration with Husqvarna Group, which is currently developing their e-commerce channel. Therefore, Husqvarna Group is interested in understanding how e-commerce affects CO2e emissions, which thus led to this thesis. The purpose of the thesis was to explore the environmental impact of e-commerce, considering the effects on CO2e emissions from transportation and implications on product packaging. In order to understand the differences between e-commerce and traditional retailing, a comparison of the two distribution channels was carried out. The study indicates that e-commerce emits less CO2e emissions from transportation than traditional retailing. On the other hand, more packaging is required in e-commerce, which contributes to more CO2e emissions and waste. Hence, there is no straightforward answer to which distribution channel is the most sustainable, but it very much depends on the context.