Study confirms we can shop online with a clear conscience

07.10.2015 | Hamburg

As of today another broad-based misconception is laid to rest, that ‘online retail is more climate-damaging than over-the-counter (OTC) retail. Transporting goods from the online retailer to the end-customer is more efficient and causes less climate-destabilising emissions – even if we include returns, which are a major factor in the retail sector’s parcel distribution. This is the result of the latest study carried out by the Deutsches CleanTech Institut (DCTI) under the heading: ‘Climate friendly shopping – a comparative perspective of online retail and over-the-counter retail’, commissioned by the Otto Group and Hermes.

The key result of the study is that customers can shop online with a clear conscience, despite a high returns rate and several repeat delivery runs by the parcel delivery service in some cases. An article they order online even causes lower CO2 emissions on average than if the purchaser buys the same article in a high-street store. The study examined the transport routes taken by products from the central warehouse to the customer, taking customers’ varying profiles into account, as they have different life situations, different income positions and also behave differently. The study is based on a representative survey of 1,000 customers and takes customer behaviour into account for the first time.

The positive result for online retail results above all from the consolidated transport of deliveries by parcel-delivery services, which always deliver to several customers per delivery trip. The CO2 scorecard of this bundled transport is far superior to the model of making individual delivery trips by car to a high number of customers in the inner city.

There is not such a great difference in the scorecard for the delivery of bulky items, however (end-customer delivery with two-man handling). While online retail’s CO2 emissions are also lower than emissions caused by OTC retail, the differences are not as clear as for products delivered by small parcel.

This is because the number of articles transported per delivery-route section is lower, and the transport-based CO2 emissions need to be distributed across fewer articles.

“It was important to us to create transparency regarding CO2 and to counter the prejudice with facts”, says Hanjo Schneider, Member of the Otto Group Executive Board Services and Chairman of the Hermes Europe GmbH Supervisory Board, explaining the reason for commissioning the DCTI study. “Essentially, this research shows that further reductions in CO2 emissions are only possible through avoiding unnecessary transportation. This is why we are continuing to working intensively on designing our service offer even more efficiently. Alternative delivery options such as ParcelShops, CustomerChoice delivery points, customer-defined delivery times and parcel dropboxes also help us to make successful first-run deliveries to our customers more often, meaning an increase in this key success rate for our Logistics operation.” At Hermes, this key performance indicator is already at an unprecedented 96.3 per cent. To reach 100 per cent requires a collective effort by end-customers, the online retailers commissioning delivery and also by the political community to provide the right overall framework. “The study presented today is in this sense an invitation to dialogue”, continues Hanjo Schneider.

“The study will raise awareness of the issue and provide a stimulus for continual further research, monitoring and optimisation in this area”, explains Philipp Wolff, DCTI Exective Director.

In the DCTI, the Otto Group and Hermes have gained a well-reputed and highly credible partner to carry out this study. The DCTI brings with it years of experience in the area of environmental technologies and energy, well-founded scientific work (analyses, studies and white papers), ideological freedom as well as political and lobbying independence. It clients particularly include German Federal Government and Federal State ministries. Moreover, the methodological approach, assumptions and calculations of the DCTI Study 2015 have successfully passed a critical examination by the Eco Institute (Öko-Institut), Freiburg, Germany. 

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Media Contact

Otto Group
Thomas Voigt
Phone: +49 40 6461 4010

Hermes Group
Martin Frommhold
Phone: +49 40 537 55-537