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Webshops…Bringing Brands Unsustainably Right to Your Door

Webshops have one distinct advantage over typical consumer retail businesses in that they aren’t located in actual buildings that consume electricity, water, and natural gas; generate waste; and take up space in areas that were previously natural habitats. However, despite these advantages in regards to sustainability, the Webshops sector has its own set of issues, especially in regards to greenhouse gas emissions from logistics, packaging from shipments, and an environmental footprint from consumers returning products to sellers.
In Germany, every third online order is returned, which results in over 250 million returned products annually. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, approximately 5.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the world are the result of the transportation/logistics sector. In the United States, where the reliance on plastics and unnecessary packaging is common, packaging adds 29 million tons of non-biodegradable waste to landfills every year.

Overall, the Webshops sector performs quite poorly in regards to sustainability compared to other sectors such as Telecomunication (for instance Vodafone or Telekom), Website (for instance Google or Facebook) or Fashion Retailers (for instance Zara or Asos). Compared to the previous year’s rankings of Webshops, none of the brands received a higher grade label (i.e., an improvement from a C-label to a B-label). No brand scored above C-label, and of the 20 brands, 18 received an E-label, which is considered the lowest score. The Webshops sector is a sector with many relatively new brands, and therefore, one would expect more ambition and innovation on behalf of these brands in regards to their sustainability efforts. Half of the brands failed to implement a policy to reduce or minimize carbon emissions and none of the brands have taken steps to reduce the impact of their packaging by reusing or recycling or reducing the weight of packaging materials.

The German mail order brand Otto stands out as the only brand to receive a C-label, primarily due to its efforts in the areas of reducing and disclosing its climate footprint, providing environmentally and socially preferable options and information regarding the sustainability of these options to its consumers, reporting its paper materials footprint, and implementing labor conditions policies for its own employees as well temporary staff and suppliers. Similarly, the Dutch webshop bol.com receives a higher label compared to the other brands in that it received the next highest score, a D-label. Bol.com demonstrates exceptional efforts in that 95% of its shipping boxes are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. However, all of the Webshops brands have considerable room for improvement in their sustainability efforts.

Scorecard-Webshop-update-2016-EN

When you are looking for more specific information on brands, a list of the brands can be found here for Webshops. We hope to see some Webshops brands receiving higher labels in the future! To encourage your favorite Webshops brands to become more sustainable, you can send them a message through each individual brand’s page on the Rank a Brand website.

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