The Chief Executive of Toys R Us Jerry Storch has slammed ecommerce as “very ungreen” and calls on consumers to consider the environmental impact of having items delivered direct to your door. He claims that online shoppers are “just so enraptured with how cool it is that they can order anything and get it brought to their home that they aren’t thinking about the carbon footprint of that. But that will change.”
He added: ‘driving a truck down a country lane in rural Connecticut to deliver a package is hardly the greenest way of product delivery to occur. People are going to start realizing, wait, I’m already … taking my children to school. The store is right there. I can just pick it up.” For the record, Toys R Us sold $1bn worth of goods online last year, 7% of its total sales.
He may have a point. Working at home I see the comings and goings of the Royal Mail and various couriers to my little street. Not only do Royal Mail send the postie daily but on most days a van with parcels offers an additional service.
Various couriers visit through the day to drop items to residents too: it’s not unusual to see 3 or 4 vans come by daily and it is sometimes more. They’re bringing consignments from Amazon, Asos and other ecommerce outlets. These multiple drop offs by different firms is a result of the deregulated postal industry but it can hardly be considered green.
Storch is right to note that delivery systems that don’t require the ‘last mile’ service such as Click & Collect and dropboxes like Amazon’s lockers in supermarkets may have less impact. But it is by no means clear the extent to which these are likely to be adopted.
Also, consider the individual packaging that ecommerce items require. That has an environmental impact. When merchandise arrives in a store it comes generically packed as multiples. Items sent in the post require individual packaging and I imagine that creates a gargantuan amount of waste.
But where Storch’s criticisms fall short is with a cursory look at retail outlets and ignoring the impact that shops themselves have. Often lit all through the night for security reasons and by days the doors are wide open leaking heat out into the streets and car parks. That seems like a problem that needs to be sorted too.
And considering big out of town shopping outlets and supermarkets. they are often little more than uninsulated metal sheds, that might be something worth solving too before sounding off about ecommerce.