UK online retail giants still minnows in green deliveries

online-shop2Nearly every major UK online retailer is still failing when it comes to offering basic sustainable options for customers in the delivery process despite signing the renewed UN Fashion Charter at COP26 more than six months ago.

That is the stark conclusion of a research project carried out by operations experience management platform parcelLab, which reveals that over nine out of ten (96%) of the UK’s top 200 online retailers do not offer the option of carbon neutral delivery. A further 98% fail to provide the option of reduced or non-branded packaging at the checkout.

The OXM report series, which looks at different aspects of the customer journey when ordering from the UK’s top 200 online brands, shows that despite recent research highlighting that strong sustainability commitments would lead over a quarter of Brits (26%) to opt for one brand over another, brands are still failing to live up to the environmental commitments they themselves have set.

As it stands, four out of five retailers fail to provide any sustainability information in their communication with customers.

The study also reports that there has been limited progress in making the returns process more environmentally friendly. Three quarters of the retailers (76%) continue to offer free returns and with good reason. parcelLab research recently showed 58% of UK consumers were likely to opt for one brand over another if they offered free shipping and returns.

While the offer of returning products purchased online is key for many retailers, little action has been taken to reform the process to make it more sustainable.

Nearly nine in ten retailers (87%) fail to promote the option of paperless returns, a significant fall from the 46% found to provide this option in the study last year. What is more, many of those that did provide paperless returns fail to promote this on their website.

parcelLab founder and chief executive Tobias Buxhoidt said: “The renewed UN Fashion Charter and the targets brands themselves have set are far from unachievable. All it will take is a concerted effort to fight the narrative of misalignment between business and sustainability.

“Our data clearly shows that consumers do care about sustainability, and this does have a significant baring in their choice of retailer. Brands that ignore this are missing a trick in not doing the basics: offering carbon neutral delivery, paperless returns and sufficient information which will empower the consumer to make environmentally friendly choices throughout the delivery and order process.

“Investing in the technology that can enable a more sustainable retail experience is the key first step to take.
“Delivery and returns do not have to be the environmentally damaging parts of the shopping experience. All it will take is for retailers to be brave enough to offer customers the choice of carbon offsetting or other green solutions. Those that do will not just reap the rewards of a cleaner planet, but also a happier and more loyal customer base.”

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