The last two decades have popularised digital commerce and changed how retailers sell products and consumers purchase goods. While major retailers serve their customers through both brick-and mortar and digital channels, observable growth in the Retail industry is almost entirely attributable to ecommerce.

The growth of online shopping has enabled new ecommerce retailers to serve millions of customers without having to own or rent a physical store. The steady decline of brick-and-mortar retail and fast-paced growth of ecommerce has changed the way that retailers do business with their customers, suppliers, third party logistics providers.

Leading Retailers such as Nordstrom, Walmart and Amazon have invested in environmental sustainability and can boast about reducing their carbon footprint through standardised reporting mechanisms or agencies. These results initially show that ecommerce has a lower carbon footprint, but with its rapid expansion, the opposite is true.  

For the following key reasons, e-commerce channels are thought to produce more emissions per item:

  • eCommerce requires additional packaging,
  • Customers purchase fewer items per online transaction
  • Multi-item orders often result in multiple deliveries.


Therefore, achieving the purchase volume of one trip to a physical store may require multiple e-purchases and deliveries. For deliveries, two of the largest sources of emissions are last-mile delivery and packaging. The e-commerce channel can improve its average footprint per item by increasing the number of items shipped per order, but only if all the items can be packaged and shipped together. The emissions of two items shipped separately are 35% higher than if the items shipped together. One way of reducing the shipping carbon footprint is for the company to transform into an omnichannel platform.

In this fast-changing retail landscape, omnichannel retailers have an edge: They can mix and match their physical and online channels to lower their environmental impact while offering customers greater flexibility.

  • Omnichannel retailers can offer customers who shop online the option of picking up their purchases at a store the same day. This reduces the need for last-mile deliveries and packaging. The combined approach is typically more efficient in cost and carbon than shipping items to a customer’s home.
  • Retailers who don’t have the benefit of an extensive store network can establish their own pickup locations near customers or partner with other retailers for space.
  • Shipping items to customers from a local store rather than a distribution centre can minimise longer-haul shipping, especially for oversized items—reducing carbon emissions and costs.
  • Omnichannel retailers can offer same-day convenience without customers having to make a dedicated trip by establishing partnerships with on-demand logistics providers.


As eCommerce accelerates, retailers should shoulder much of the increased costs of packaging and deliveries and the emissions they produce. Delivering an ever-increasing volume of online purchases, both general merchandise and groceries, poses a significant challenge. Retailers that can adapt to an omnichannel platform can reduce their carbon footprint, while also giving customers greater choice.