E-commerce accounted for nearly 14% of all retail sales in America in 2018 (as well as $520 billion in sales) and the vast majority of Americans have purchased items from the internet. However aside from online retail’s huge packaging problem, most retailers haven’t addressed the carbon emissions associated with shipping their items. That’s why e-marketplace Etsy, recently announced that it will become the first global e-commerce company to offset 100% of carbon emissions generated by shipping. Etsy CEO, John Silverman, said in a blog post that “While we’re pleased with the progress within our operations, I believe we must hold ourselves to an even higher standard. 98 percent of Etsy’s total emissions stem from items shipped from our sellers to our buyers. Although we do not actively manage this shipping process, we are in the position to do something about the environmental impact.”

As Greenbiz explained, over time, Etsy will seek out ways to collaborate with others — including other e-commerce companies, logistics organizations and policymakers — to identify ways to make the planes and trucks carrying millions of e-commerce packages every day emissions-free. The company views the offsets as an immediate step while it presses for these changes. Incidentally, Etsy jumpstarted its initiative by picking up the carbon tab related to deliveries for the entire U.S. e-commerce sector Feb. 28 — an estimated 55,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. Chelsea Mozen, sustainability lead for Etsy, said one of the toughest behaviors to address will be the “buy-now” consumer interest in instant gratification, in receiving shipments as quickly as possible after they place an order online.

  • Right now, there’s only very general information on the site — buyers are alerted (at the top of the page) as they’re placing an order, but shoppers don’t have the ability to select the particular offsets they’d like to associate with their delivery.
  • Mozen said Etsy was concerned about adding friction to the checkout process, although it will experiment with raising awareness over time. The company is also addressing this issue with sellers and encouraging them to rethink the shipping options they offer, she said.

Why This Matters: Etsy hopes to encourage other retailers to assess and reduce their emissions and make their business practices more environmentally friendly. Their announcement is timely as Amazon, the world’s 8th largest company, unveiled this week that Amazon Prime members now have the option to schedule all package deliveries to come together, once a week on a day of their choosing. The “Amazon Day” service is a new, voluntary way to cut down on one’s carbon footprint. Hopefully, the biggest online retailers continue to show leadership, educate consumers, and help spur innovation in sustainability and clean energy especially as online retail continues to grow and more consumers grow to depend on it.

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