Carbon emissions of retail channels: the limits of available policy instruments to achieve absolute reductions

Publikation aus Life
Internationale Klimapolitik und Ökonomik

Seebauer S., Kulmer V., Bruckner M., Winkler E.

Journal of Cleaner Production 132, 192-203, 2016


Buying the same product at the neighborhood store or at a shopping mall implies different carbon emissions. This paper quantifies carbon impacts of consumer choices of retail channel and shop location (where to buy), extending footprint assessments of product choices (what to buy). Carbon emissions of shopping situations are shown in the current situation, in a business-as-usual projection in 2020, and in policy scenarios with changed market shares of shopping situations.

The analysis covers the product categories: groceries, clothing, and electronics & computers, from the shopping situations: neighborhood store, town center, discount store, shopping mall, and mail order/online selling. Stages of the product life cycle which differ between shopping situations are examined: freight transport, warehousing, store operation, and the last mile of the consumers' trip to the store.

Carbon emissions of shopping situations amount to 2.7% of overall Austrian emissions in the base year. Dominant car use on the last mile substantially contributes to the overall footprint. In the business-as-usual scenario, carbon emissions from shopping situations increase by +33% until 2020, corresponding to 4.2% of the overall Austrian emissions target for 2020. Restricting shopping malls or supporting neighborhood stores could limit this increase to +25% and +20%, respectively. Facilitating online selling achieves no notable effects. The study underlines that an absolute reduction in private demand for household goods is necessary, as available policy instruments aiming at shopping situations fail to compensate the steady growth in private consumption.

Keywords: Carbon footprint, Last mile, Shopping mobility, Retailing, Store choice