IPC report into environmental impact of e-commerce

The International Postal Corporation (IPC) has commissioned a large scale study into the environmental impact of e-commerce. The IPC has asked Verisk Maplecroft to do a review of ‘prominent, high quality existing literature’ to assess and compare the different environmental impacts of e-commerce and traditional retailing.

In a statement issued on its website yesterday (19 October), the IPC said: “The focus of the literature review is the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the ‘last mile’ delivery. In both online and traditional retail, the factors dictating the greenhouse emissions generally fall into two broad categories: consumer behaviour and logistics. Consumer behaviour includes: the number of items purchased concurrently, the distance travelled, combining traditional shopping travel with other activities (known as trip chaining), returns, and transport type. Logistics includes: route optimisation, warehouse densities, retail densities, and missed deliveries.”

The IPC added that the full literature review, including references, is now available to IPC Sustainability programme participants.

Anecdotally there seems to be an increase in CO2 emissions associated with the delivery of small parcels that may not have been there when, for example people had to drive to get a ream of paper from the shops. However, some of this will have been offset by the fall in car traffic into city centres. The situation isn’t as clear as it may seem on the surface and the IPC report should clarify things considerably.

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