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In 1994, the retail industry was flipped on its head following the first successful online transaction. This seemingly futuristic development ushered in a new universe of opportunity for both retailers and shoppers, intrigued by the possibilities of one-click commerce. Before we knew it, ecommerce became an integral part of society—and if we don’t act with caution, it could also take an unprecedented toll on the environment.

The Convenience Conundrum

For some time, ecommerce was perceived as an environmentally-friendly alternative to brick-and-mortar, allowing consumers to avoid carbon-emitting car trips to the store. A weeklong delivery turnaround was the norm for items bought online, which preserved ecommerce as an occasional option for the everyday consumer. That is, until convenience began to control shopping behaviors.

By the mid-2000s, e-commerce giant Amazon had set the stage for what would shape the future of retail: two-day shipping. This promise of expedited fulfillment and delivery permanently raised the bar to compete in the digital era, and retailers quickly followed suit with offerings of free, expedited shipping and returns to capture consumer loyalty. By 2019, these offerings fueled an average of 3,248 parcels shipments every second in the world’s largest markets. Little did we know, this was only the beginning.

When the COVID pandemic swept the globe in 2020, more than 2 billion people made purchases online to fill the void of in-person shopping. Despite the rapid shuttering of storefronts, ecommerce activity skyrocketed as panicked shoppers regularly filled their carts with essentials. Even when stay-at-home mandates were lifted, retailers continued to tempt consumers with on-demand, one-click services to keep their businesses afloat.

This codependency on ecommerce has now sparked a new hunger for convenience in the belly of consumers, and it comes at a troubling cost for the environment. Staggering statistics show the impact of shipping alone:

  • Parcel volume reached 131.2 billion shipments in 2020. This volume is expected to double by 2026.
  • Delivery-related carbon emissions are expected to rise nearly one-third by 2030
  • Air cargo, often necessary for rushed delivery, produces eight times more emissions than delivery trucks.

...and these figures don’t even take into account the considerable emissions generated by the manufacturing of goods.

Experts predict that shipping could be responsible for 17% of global CO2 emissions by 2050 if left unregulated. Brands are now scrambling to adopt corporate sustainability practices that minimize their own carbon footprint and the footprints of their customers. But as the on-demand economy persists, can convenience and climate goals co-exist?

Taking Action with Patch

We know a more sustainable ecommerce industry is possible, but it hinges on holistic measures to curb carbon emissions across the entire supply chain—from reducing packaging waste to electrifying delivery fleets. It also largely hinges on making carbon removal immediately accessible to ecommerce consumers.

In a time when any item imaginable can be purchased at the click of a button, it’s pertinent we apply the same convenience and urgency to climate action. That’s why Patch has partnered with Afterpay, Farfetch Platform Solutions and EasyPost—three retail players already leading the industry’s climate charge—to embed climate action directly into online offerings.

Afterpay: Empowering US customers to neutralize purchase emissions

More than 100,000 merchants have partnered with Afterpay, the leading ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ platform, to enhance their online check-out services. These integrations have attracted more than 10 million US customers to Afterpay’s purchase solutions, making it the prime platform to champion consumer-facing climate action via Patch.

Beginning this month, Afterpay’s app will feature a section where customers can view the estimated carbon impact of their spend history and the cost to offset the related emissions. Customers can then choose from a wide selection of nature-based and frontier human-engineered projects to purchase carbon removal and/or offsets, all in one seamless experience.

“We are thrilled to launch with Patch as we know our customers have an invested interest in taking sustainable actions towards their purchases,” said Zahir Khoja, General Manager of North America for Afterpay. “Through this partnership, we’re able to deliver on our brand promise of providing more ways for customers to contribute to sustainability initiatives or goals.” 

FARFETCH Platform Solutions: Neutralizing brands’ shipping emissions

The fashion industry is a significant climate change contributor, responsible for approximately 10% of global carbon emissions each year. It’ll be impossible to avoid catastrophic levels of global warming without the fashion industry’s participation in widespread, immediate climate action, which is why Patch has teamed up with FARFETCH Platform Solutions (FPS), a suite of white-label commerce offerings powered by the global platform for the luxury fashion industry, FARFETCH.

FPS offers luxury brands and retailers a full suite of end-to-end commerce solutions, including order management systems, demand generation tools and global logistics. Through this pilot, Patch will assess participating brands’ order data to calculate their estimated shipping footprint, which they can then use to guide the investment in carbon removal or offsets through nature-based, avoidance and negative emission technology projects available within Patch’s vast portfolio. 

FARFETCH is committed to becoming the global platform for good in luxury fashion — empowering everyone to think, act and choose positively through their Positively FARFETCH strategy. 

EasyPost: Managing increased carbon intensity of ecommerce fulfillment

EasyPost, the multi-carrier shipping solution for ecommerce, is a third party API that manages the breadth of online merchant’s shipping needs. Native integration with USPS, UPS, Fedex, and DHL makes it easy for merchants to purchase shipping labels and track packages via EasyPost’s API, and through a partnership with Patch, these merchants will soon be able to estimate and neutralize shipping emissions with frontier carbon removal offsets. 

As the shipping industry undergoes rapid decarbonization, Patch’s carbon removal marketplace will enable merchants to mitigate the increased carbon intensity of ecommerce fulfillment. 

Our work won’t stop there. The retail sector is poised for continued growth in 2022, and it’s only a matter of time before integrated, automated climate action is expected by consumers and business partners alike. Building carbon removal into retail products and services is easy with Patch, and with the right investments, we can all pave a way toward a truly sustainable retail future.

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