The 2021 Dirty Delivery Report: Predicting The Carbon Cost Of Online Shopping

New research from the consumer spending team at money.co.uk predicts that online shopping this Black Friday could release 386,243 tonnes of carbon – the equivalent to 215,778 return flights between London and Sydney.

The team money.co.uk have launched this year’s Dirty Delivery Report which analyses the environmental credentials of the UK’s top delivery firms, the number of packages they are predicted to deliver, and the carbon produced as a result of each delivery.

The experts predict that, with sales estimated to fall by at least 10% vs last year*, Black Friday 2021 could be responsible for 386,243 tonnes of carbon emissions – down 11% from last year’s estimate. 

The slight drop in year on year figures highlights that despite lockdown restrictions easing, shoppers are continuing to spend online more than before the pandemic.

Dirty Deliveries – how carbon conscious are the UK’s delivery companies?

The report analysed eight delivery companies based on their carbon-conscious credentials and to determine which companies are the most dedicated to becoming more environmentally friendly. 

The carbon-conscious credentials were determined by the following metrics: 

1. Number of Click and Collect Locations /10

2. Satisfactory Score /10

3. Trustpilot reviews /10

4. Cycle Delivery /10

5. Walking Delivery /10

6. Number of Electric/Hybrid Vehicles /10

Of the eight delivery companies included in the report, Royal Mail was identified as the most carbon conscious delivery company, scoring 43.5 out of 60. 

Royal Mail have 90,000 ‘feet on the street’ postal workers and have recently introduced 3,000 more electric vans to their fleet, a significant increase from the 300 plug-in vehicles in operation last year. More broadly, Royal Mail has been committed to reducing carbon emissions since 2005

Eco-friendly shopping habits of UK consumers

When making an online purchasing decision, almost a quarter of shoppers (22.05%) now factor in how carbon friendly the delivery will be – up 88.1% when compared to the results of last year’s research

Over a third of UK shoppers (34.25%) consider carbon offsetting an essential part of their purchasing decision, equally as important to them as free delivery. 

Almost two fifths (39.3%) revealed they would be more likely to purchase through an online retailer who offers an eco-friendly delivery option. 

Those aged 18-23 along with those aged 55+ are the most environmentally conscious shoppers. With the Gen Z demographic willing to pay the most to offset the carbon produced by their online purchases than any other age group, with the average mean amount emerging as £8.84.

Whereas, almost two in five (38.38%) of UK shoppers aged 55+ would be more willing to shop with an online retailer if they offered a green or eco-friendly delivery option than if they didn’t. 

Salman Haqqi, personal finance expert at money.co.uk, said: 

“With more UK shoppers considering the environmental impact of their online delivery purchases than last year, it is clear that consumers are stepping up to the challenge of making their online shopping habits more eco-friendly. 

“Our research shows that more than a third of UK shoppers now consider being able to offset their carbon equally as important to them, as obtaining free delivery, when shopping online. And while we do still undoubtedly live in a society accustomed to almost instant delivery, these figures suggest that many of us are now beginning to consider how our day-to-day lives have a wider impact on the environment.

“Interestingly, those in the Gen Z age group stated they would be willing to pay £8.84 on average, highlighting why this age group is also one of the largest demographics involved in climate protests. 

“Over the past 12 months, the delivery companies analysed in our research have implemented significant changes in order to become more environmentally conscious. For example, Royal Mail has recently introduced 3,000 more electric vans to their fleet, a tenfold rise on the 300 plug-in vehicles it operated last year. 

“UPS has also increased their electric vehicle fleet, with 10,000 electric vans set to be rolled out in the UK, Europe and the US between 2020 and 2024.

“Suggesting that consumers’ attitudes are potentially altering the way businesses operate, especially as our research suggests that 60.45% of UK shoppers would be less willing to make a purchase if an online retailer uses a particular delivery company.”

Methodology and data sources:

*Based on the average parcel being delivered and the predicted 10% decrease in Black Friday online spending in 2021 (based on the predicted figure from Internet Retailing), we can conservatively estimate that a full day of Black Friday purchases in 2021 could result in 104,957,338 individual transactions. (This is based on 24 hours of Black Friday sales at 1,184 transactions a second). 

Assuming, each of those transactions results in one medium-sized parcel being delivered (which produces 3.68kg of CO2) we can estimate that 386,243,002kg or 386,243 tonnes of CO2 will be emitted into the atmosphere through our online purchases this Black Friday.

Online Delivery CO2 Calculation below: 

In 2019, Barclaycard processed 1,184 individual transactions per second on Black Friday afternoon, and with 2020 sales predicted to be 14% bigger, we conservatively estimated that a full day of Black Friday purchases in 2020 could result in 116,619,264 individual transactions. 

In 2021 Black Friday sales are set to be 10% less than 2020, so we can conservatively estimate that a full day of Black Friday purchases in 2021 could result in 104,957,338 individual transactions. 

**Survey of 2,000 UK respondents aged 18-55 about their Black Friday spending, including the importance of carbon conscious delivery services during October 2021 on behalf of money.co.uk.

Carbon-Conscious Delivery Companies: 

We’ve looked at the eight delivery companies that we analysed in last year’s research based on their carbon-conscious credentials to determine what changes each delivery company has implemented over a year to reveal which companies are the most dedicated to becoming more environmentally friendly. 

The carbon-conscious credentials were determined by the following metrics: 

1. Number of Click and Collect Locations

2. Satisfactory Score

3. Trustpilot reviews

4. Cycle Delivery

5. Walking Delivery

6. Number of Electric/Hybrid Vehicles