Buying groceries online has been the new norm for the past two years, especially after the onset pandemic in 2020. Some of us find it a liberating experience to receive home delivery of our essentials, and some switch to it merely out of necessity. Still, the emergence of the online grocery delivery business has taken the world of eCommerce by storm. We often encounter the terms like “environment sustainability,” “going green,” etc., and a considerable number of industries and enterprises are putting efforts into achieving this. Establishing moral ethics in business practices is the core purpose behind this initiative, apart from gaining consumers’ trust and loyalty in the long run.
When do we ask ourselves whether online grocery shopping is sustainable or not? The answer is that it depends on many factors involved. Partial responsibility lies upon the retailers and their policies pertaining to the marketing and delivery initiatives; it depends on the products that are recurrently appearing in our shopping list. Consumers also partly contribute to this cycle by selecting the shipping mode and speed of delivery. There are some pointers related to how we can improvise our online shopping and what adaptations are required from the end of the online grocery business industry.
Transportation-induced effects: Online shopping revolves around the idea of mobility of things from one place to another, and a chain system of movement is involved. Raw materials are converted into ready-to-use goods by equipment and locomotion of workers and staff members to the product manufacturing units and offices—finally, the shipment of products to warehouses, supermarkets, showrooms, or to consumers directly.
The amount of greenhouse gas emissions involved in all this transportation is out of the control of online buyers who want to bring about a sustainable change, so what they can do is be mindful of online purchasing and only buy essential products. For example, grind fruits and vegetables at home to extract healthy juice instead of purchasing that online. They can also select the slower mode of product shipment as the rapid delivery system is the major contributor to the carbon footprint of online shopping.
Packaging involves an abundance of waste production: The products we buy in any local stores of Walmart, Target or Lulu Shopping mall are delivered in a small paper bag, or we tend to carry reusable cloth bags or covers to bag our groceries. When delivered through an online retailer, the same products will be packed using large or medium-sized cardboard boxes and internally wrapped within blister packs or bubble wrap. Small electronic items are stuffed within more layers of these packs and wraps, such things are nothing but contributors to environmental pollution. Though cardboard boxes are reusable according to theoretical claims, a large portion of the waste is in landfills.
While some brands like Spinneys, Unilever, etc aim to promote environmentally friendly ways of manufacturing and marketing their products, others prioritize profitability and market share over the greater good. We as consumers can make the following changes in our shopping habits to see if it works:
While shopping for food items, reassure yourself whether the product is made via factory farming or the organic method of regenerative agriculture. Distance those food items travel, foods transported from the local farmers are more sustainable than those from warehouses at larger spaces. Food items include bioengineered ingredients or have highly concentrated pesticides. Does the retailer offer ways to recycle its packaging? Is the company selling its products working towards environmental awareness and promoting ethical values?