I'm not much of a shopper, but when I buy stuff, I prefer to do it online. I don't like shopping malls, driving in traffic, crowded stores or dealing with "customer service" people. I do enjoy getting packages at home.
Now, it turns out, there may be another reason to shop online: E-commerce is a way to help fight climate change.
So, at least, says eBay and a carbon-footprint consulting firm called Cooler, in a report due out today. In particular, the report argues, eBay's business of enabling peer-to-peer selling and small retailers generates significant environmental value. You'd expect eBay to say that, of course, but there's logic behind the claim. The report says:
By minimizing infrastructure, reducing the need for warehousing, and maximizing transportation efficiency, small online retailers have created a climate-friendly way to buy and sell. All-electronic, with no need for everything from mannequins to signage to giant rooftop air conditioning units, they have dematerialized considerable parts of the retail process.
This morning, I'll be moderating a discussion about the study at the National Press Club with John Donahoe, eBay’s president and CEO; Michel Gelobter, the founder of Cooler and author of the white paper; and Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. [Disclosure: eBay is paying me to host the event.]
This Washington showcase for Donahoe, to which environmental leaders have been invited, is the latest effort by eBay's to position itself as an environmentally-friendly company, largely because it sells used products. [See my blogpost Why eBay is a Green Giant and this GreenBiz.com interview with Donahoe.] To its credit, eBay is also a founding member of BICEP, a coalition of companies pushing for climate change regulation.
I have to admit that I was skeptical about eBay's claim that e-commerce is climate-friendly when I heard about it from Amy Skoczlas Cole, who leads eBay's Green Team. After all, aren't big retailers like Walmart renowned for their efficiency, their logistics, their fine-tuned global supply chains? The economies of scale and all that?
Well, yes, but peer-to-peer retailers -- the small businesses supported by eBay -- tend to be pretty efficient, too, because they have to be. (The last time I bought a book online from a small store, it came in a previously-used box.)