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Shopping is greener online: Climate Week survey

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Most customers believe it’s greener to shop online than hit the high street, a new study has shown.

According to IMRG research unveiled to mark this week’s Climate Week 2011, 72.9% of shoppers believe buying over the internet is more environmentally friendly than going to the shops.

The results of the IMRG Consumer Delivery Survey 2011, which polled 1,320 people, represent a significant increase on similar research last year, with 25% more recognising a green advantage to shopping online this year than last.

But while 64.2% said that they would opt for a carbon-friendly delivery solution, nearly three quarters would not be prepared to pay more than an extra £10 a year.

Professor Alan McKinnon is director of the Logistics Research Centre at Heriot-Watt University, which is studying the environmental benefits of online shopping. Early findings support the findings of the IMRG poll, since it found in one study that carbon dioxide emissions from a van delivery are significantly less than making a special trip to the shops to buy the same thing.

Online retail sales in the UK are currently growing at 10 times the rate overall UK retail sales, and it’s expected they will reach one-fifth of total retail sales in the UK by 2012. That means individual journeys to shops are being replaced by consolidated van deliveries to the home.

McKinnon said: “Our research suggests that ordering goods online and having them delivered to the home can be much more carbon efficient than travelling to the shops by car or bus to buy them.”

But he warns the industry not to be complacent about the findings, saying: “Internet retailing appears, overall, to offer a significant environmental advantage, though rather than rest on their green laurels, etailers and their carriers could be doing more to decarbonise the distribution of online orders.”

Food manufacturer Kellogg’s, which is aiming to reduce emissions from its UK sites by 15-20% per tonne of food, and has already cut them reduce by 10.9% since 2005, says that while technology and process changes can take it towards this goal, it’s also important to change behaviours in ways such as online shopping. Bruce Learner, CR manager at Kellogg Europe, said: “If we can change people’s behaviours then it means that environmental concerns become embedded and that must be our long term goal. Online shopping is one of those behavioural changes that people are finding more attractive.”

One option that retailers can use to reduce their emissions is to redistribute surplus stock. In Kind Direct, a charity, collects direct from stores to send ends of lines, samples and other excess stock to a network of 5,600 UK charities. To date, this has saved 12,500 tonnes of landfill space. For more information, go to

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