The CSR Newsletters are a freely-available resource generated as a dynamic complement to the textbook, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility: Sustainable Value Creation.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Strategic CSR - Amazon

The article in the url below poses an interesting question that results from the interaction of the Holiday season and a higher percentage of shopping done online – Which is greener, shopping online or shopping at the store? (Chapter 8, Paper or Plastic? pp. 486-489). Apparently, the answer is not as straightforward as you might think:
 
“Going to a physical store often involves driving, which consumes fossil fuels. But that is offset by the fact that people tend to pick up multiple items each trip. Online shopping creates packaging waste and consumes energy for shipping, especially when purchases are made one item at a time or with expedited delivery. In the end, ‘the trade-off is pretty much the same,’ said H. Scott Matthews, an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has studied the issue.”
 
Either way, the holiday season generates a lot of trash – Amazon’s success and our convenience come with an environmental cost:
 
“The end of the year is peak trash season across America, a superlative earned by all the eating, parties and gift giving that people do in the final weeks of the year. Americans produce around 25% more waste around the holidays than other periods, estimates the Environmental Protection Agency. The additional garbage—which adds up to over one million tons of waste—includes food scraps, cutlery, wine bottles, wrapping paper and Christmas trees. People also toss furniture, television sets, microwaves and other appliances after receiving new ones as gifts.”
 
Perhaps the main effect of more ecommerce is just a different kind of trash, rather than any more or less:
 
“Online sales add a thickening layer of refuse. In recent years, as more consumers have taken to buying online, the volume of corrugated cardboard boxes, air-filled plastic pockets and Styrofoam pellets in trash has grown. Much of it is recycled, but some people discard the items with other household waste, which ends up in landfills.”
 
And that is a trend that does not look like it will change anytime soon:
 
“Online sales in the U.S. this year are forecast to grow 15% to $78 billion, according to technology researcher Forrester Research Inc. United Parcel Service Inc. earlier predicted an 8% rise in the daily volume of package delivery during the holidays, thanks to growth in online shopping. Last year, UPS delivered more than 500 million packages during peak season. The U.S. Postal Service expects to ship a record 420 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, an increase of 12% from last year. Both are used by large retailers including Amazon.com Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to deliver their products.”
 
Take care
David
 
David Chandler & Bill Werther
 
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The Last Christmas Present: Lots of Trash
By Serena Ng
December 26, 2013
The Wall Street Journal
Late Edition – Final
B8