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E-commerce benefits environment, report claims

17 September 2010 - 11:04 by Mike Price

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The impact of e-commerce on the environment is much less than that of shopping on the high street, according to a new report quoted by online auction site eBay and environmental analyst firm Cooler.

It is clearly in the interest of eBay to promote e-commerce by claiming that it is environmentally friendly, but other independent experts are willing to support this claim, which makes safe shopping online even more attractive than heading out to deal with the crowds and high prices on the high street.

The report claims that online shopping allows many reductions to be made, which would usually result in lower carbon emissions, such as running a store, creating mannequins for displaying clothes and physical advertising for the store front. The environmental costs of running a store, from the heat and light to the air conditioning, are also believed to be a black mark against high street outlets that online retailers do not have to consider.

It is unsurprising to see eBay talking up the benefits of creating an online marketplace in which small merchants and individuals can sell to one another, without having to spend money on anything more than shipping.

It is the smaller firms involved in e-commerce that are allowing its green credentials to expand, according to eBay. Aside from using less energy and not requiring a physical store location with all the associated emissions, small retailers can be more economical because they have less to invest and, as such, they carry out cost and emissions-cutting actions, such as reusing packaging to send out products to their customers.

Of course for safe shopping online to be available to the very small retailers, it is usually necessary for them to piggyback on established platforms for e-commerce such as eBay or Amazon, but even as the big firms benefit, the more minor players are taking their own slice of the pie.