Ecommerce set records during the holiday season and online package deliveries are forecast to grow by 80% over the next decade. One upside is the tangible environmental benefit that flows from ecommerce, according to a recent study conducted by the MIT Real Estate Innovation Lab.
The study was supported by Prologis, the international industrial real estate operator and services provider.
Driven by the stay-at-home economy, online retailing surged and remained at peak levels throughout 2020. Early estimates found U.S. online sales grew by upwards of 50% year-to-year during the expanded 2020 holiday shopping season.
Ecommerce sales growth also experienced similar trajectories in other major ecommerce markets including China, Europe and Japan.
Using average emissions results from the MIT study, the share shift to ecommerce resulted in approximately 2.4% fewer emissions per package.
The researchers found that carbon emissions from online shopping are 36% lower, on average than those produced by in-store trips. Electrification and other fuel efficiency innovations are expected to improve on this.
“Ecommerce has a clear sustainability advantage over in-store shopping, even after factoring in higher returns and packaging,” says Prologis.
Among other innovations include built-out logistics networks, which deliver goods from urban fulfilment centers close to consumers (rather than from facilities outside the urban core. These can save approximately 50% of transport-related greenhouse gas emissions and reduce overall footprint per package by an average of 10%.
“Placing goods as close as possible to the end consumer minimizes final delivery distances and congestion,” the researchers said. “This improves delivery times and reduces costs by maximizing delivery fleet load capacities”