“E-commerce isn’t the cherry on the cake, it’s the new cake”
The pandemic has surely created a new economic eco-system, the E- Commerce marketplace and it has become the virtual mainstream of the world. The rapid shift from doing things offline to online has shown no signs of slowing down.
To begin with, consumers have shifted from cash payments to online transactions. Not only debit/credit cards, but various applications like PayTm, PhonePe, etc., have gained high recognition and have become the common forms of online transactions. People find it more comfortable to pay digitally rather than cash. In return, even the shopkeepers serve with e-bills. Big companies like Amazon, Dominos, etc., also prioritised online orders and payments. Furthermore, advancement of E-Commerce in the banking sector has given people a relief and has become the new normal for them. This whole new process of doing things in a paperless way has rightly reduced deforestation.
Moreover, E-Commerce reduces the need for fuel. Businesses have shifted their employees to virtual offices, as we say, ‘Work From Home’. This has brought down the number of commuters and vehicles on road which leads to reduction in the levels of carbon emissions and lesser pollution. In addition to this, the digital transfer of information paired with digital manufacturing can eliminate the need of warehouses and will create on-demand production. This would further limit the amount of packaging and wastage.
Mamaearth is one of the best examples which shows how a huge company can contribute in preserving the environment. The company has announced the initiative which goes by #PlantGoodness with a commitment to plant saplings towards every order made on their website and are all set to plant one million trees in the next five years in this endeavour.
However, Nothing exists in the world which has only one side. Hence, E-Commerce does pose certain threats to the environment. Starting from the fact that not every customer is satisfied with an item that is shipped to them, there is a chance for them to return the item which furthermore gives a rise for negative contribution to the environment through both transportation emissions and packaging issues. Also, the fact that it costs double or triple the amount of transportation and the ripped unrecyclable boxes cannot be ignored. Adding to this, not all companies use ‘Plastic Free’ as their moto for packaging of the products. The containers of certain items such as juices, face washes, stationery, etc., are made up of plastics. Moreover, several items that are fragile to deliver comes in plastic coverings as a safety which adds up to the wastage and trouble in their disposal. On the contrary, on-shop purchasing reduces the need for such plastic wrappings. One of the examples for the same is shipment of parcels by Amazon; if a person orders many items, they are shipped in 2-3 different packages which results in increased wastage.
One of the solutions to minimise the returns is to have a feature wherein one can try the items virtually through camera. This characteristic is provided to the customers by Lenskart, wherein the customers can try the frame virtually and thus, taper off the number of returns. As far as packaging is concerned, the company should try to ship all the parcels to be delivered on the same address all at once. They should also try to minimise the transportation costs by delivering all the parcels to be delivered in the same locality all at once.
Cutting it short, it is very clear that the E-commerce is actually a double- edged sword. Considering it has both positive and negative environmental implications, it now depends upon the customers and the companies how to use it in a manner that will be in the benefit of both, the society and the forthcoming generations.