Dirty Delivery: Counting the carbon cost this Black Friday

Estimates for carbon produced this Black Friday

Online shopping has boomed during lockdown and that trend looks set to continue with Black Friday and Christmas just around the corner. In fact, a new report predicts that online sales this Black Friday (27 November, 2020) will increase by at least 14% — but at what cost to the environment?

The new  Dirty Delivery report by personal finance experts at money.co.uk investigates how much CO2 could be produced by the millions of packages set to be delivered across the country. After crunching numbers the analysis predicts that, with sales estimated to rise by at least 14% vs last year, Black Friday 2020 will be responsible for 429,000 tonnes of carbon emissions; equivalent to 435 return flights from London to New York.

How the big five delivery companies stack up

Estimates for carbon produced this Black Friday, per delivery company

One of the UK’s largest delivery companies, Hermes, is predicted to produce the most carbon emissions this Black Friday. The company delivered 13.9M parcels in 2019 which is estimated to have resulted in 51,152 tonnes of carbon being produced. 

Assuming the estimated rise in online Black Friday transactions this year, it is predicted that 58,313 tonnes of carbon will be emitted by Hermes delivering parcels to households across the UK. 

Of the 13 delivery companies included in the report, Royal Mail was identified as the most carbon-conscious delivery company, scoring 54.5 out of 60. The company has the largest ‘feet on the street’ network of 90,000 postal workers, and they have reduced carbon emissions by 29% since 2005. The company has recently invested in a 295 strong fleet of electric vehicles. 

Amazon takes the top spot for the number of click and collect parcel locations in the UK with around 16,000. Not only do these click and collect locations and lockers help the environment by preventing numerous home deliveries, but they also serve to drive much-needed footfall into local business. The company has also invested heavily in electric vehicles (EVs) with 1,800 EVs from Mercedes-Benz due to be added to its delivery fleet in Europe this year.

However, Amazon’s 2020 Black Friday is still set to be less green than ever before.

Amazon processed 4.4M transactions on Black Friday in 2019. Based on the average parcel being delivered and the predicted 14% increase in online spending, Amazon could be set to process a whopping 5.1M transactions this year. The analysts at money.co.uk estimate Black Friday purchases via Amazon alone could result in at least 18,854 tonnes of additional CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere.

Eco-friendly shopping habits of UK consumers

Ranking of most carbon conscious companies

Just one in 10 shoppers (11.7%) factor carbon-friendly delivery into their online shopping decision, but almost three quarters (72%) admit preferring retailers who offer free delivery; the least eco-friendly option.

One in five (20%) said they would refuse to pay extra to offset the carbon generation by their purchase, compared to 17% who would pay up to £2 to do so.

Age also plays a part in eco-shopping decision making: 16-24-year-olds are twice as likely (16%) to choose a green delivery option; compared to the 55+ age group (8%). 

Discussing the findings, Salman Haqqi, personal finance expert at money.co.uk, said: 

“With almost a third of consumers (32%) stating that they would be more likely to shop with a retailer if they offered a green or eco-friendly option, it is clear there is some appetite for more environmentally conscious delivery methods.

“Despite this, our research found that 20% of shoppers did not want to pay to offset the environmental impact of their online purchases, and a further 42% admitted to not feeling any environmental guilt when purchasing items online. 

“Although there is clear interest from consumers to reduce their carbon footprint when shopping online, it appears speed and reliability are two qualities British consumers are more keen for delivery companies to possess.”

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