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Now is the perfect moment to drive home the green retail revolution

By Chris Dawson July 6, 2021 - 12:43 pm

Jason Tavaria on why Now is the perfect moment to drive home the green retail revolutionAs we ease out of the pandemic restrictions in the UK this month, Jason Tavaria, CEO at leading out-of-home and ecommerce delivery company, InPost takes a look at why this is the perfect moment to drive home the green retail revolution. We’ve been living in a different, in some ways better (and in many ways worse!) world for over a year so is it time to keep the best of what’s become our new lifestyles?

Driving home the green retail revolution

After the fifteen or so months we’ve all been through, sustainability may understandably not be front of mind for everyone. But the issue of climate change certainly hasn’t gone away. It continues to grab headlines, especially around the recent G7 summit, hosted here in the UK.

Covid-enforced lockdowns saw global carbon emissions decline by 2.4 billion tonnes in 2020. While we all understand that this wasn’t a matter of choice, as things begin to open up again, it’s imperative that we don’t lose the positive progress that has been made in this area.

Instead, we should use this moment in time as a jumping off point into more sustainable retail.

While it’s usually ecommerce that gets a bad rep when it comes to sustainability, recent research suggests that shopping at bricks and mortar retailers could actually be up to twice as polluting as buying online. This is primarily due to emissions from the heating and lighting of shops, and from customers travelling to and from them.

This is worth noting. There will likely always be a place for physical stores in the retail mix, but shoppers are more worried about the environmental impact of retail than in previous years — and they value the ease and convenience of shopping online more than ever.

Our own recent research found that 43% of people are more concerned about the environmental impact of delivery and returns than in the past — a figure which rises to more than half of 18–34 year olds. But they still want retailers to make life easier for them, and a convenient, five-star shopping experience which fits seamlessly around their lives.

Even if they are increasingly alert to the impact of ecommerce on the environment, they won’t quickly sacrifice the ease of shopping online we have all become used to while in lockdown.

With home deliveries having increased exponentially during the pandemic — and no signs this is set to change — the simple truth is that supporting this growing demand longer-term isn’t sustainable.

We can’t maintain the number and volume of home deliveries and easily reduce emissions — even with the wider introduction of EVs, which is of course very welcome. A report by The World Economic Forum suggests that by 2030 the demand for last-mile delivery is expected to grow 78%, with emissions set to rise by nearly a third.

So, what’s the answer?

We can’t claim to have a green retail revolution answer for every part of the retail operation, but the rise of out-of-home collection and drop-off points, such as lockers, can play an important role. They help consolidate deliveries into fewer van journeys, removing traffic and congestion from communities and reducing CO2 emissions by up to two-thirds compared to home deliveries.

With lockers located at convenient locations such as train stations and local supermarkets, consumers are able to pick up, return or send their parcels as part of their daily routine – as opposed to having to make additional trips out. They also offer a more consistent experience, unlike more variable shop-based experiences.

The good news is that the pandemic has also helped drive some changes to people’s habits, making them more open to new ways of collecting and returning items bought online. More than half tried a new method of returning goods during the pandemic, such as lockers or parcel shops.

With shoppers calling on retailers to offer more environmentally friendly ways to receive and return goods, but equally demanding increased convenience and ease, the message is simple: it’s no longer enough for sustainable delivery and returns to be an add-on or afterthought.

Now is the time for retailers to prioritise lower carbon delivery options and actively steer their customers towards these at checkout. Doing this can encourage new, greener, shopper habits, while continuing to deliver an outstanding retail experience.

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