The World’s Leading E-Retailers and Environmental Sustainability
The aims of this paper are twofold, namely to offer an exploratory review of the environmental sustainability commitments and achievements being publicly reported by the world’s leading e-retailers and to offer some wider reflections on the way these e-retailers are addressing and pursuing sustainability agendas. The paper begins with brief outlines of how the internet is transforming consumer behaviour and retail operations and of the possible environmental impacts of e-retailing and a short discussion of environmental sustainability. The paper draws its empirical material from the most recent information on environmental sustainability posted on the world’s leading e-retailers’ corporate web sites. The findings reveal that the majority of the world’s leading e-retailers publicly report or provide some information on their commitment to environmental sustainability which embraces climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency, waste management, water management, bio-diversity and nature conservation. However the authors argue that these commitments can be interpreted as being constructed around the search for operational efficiencies and cost reductions and being driven by business imperatives more than any genuine commitment to environmental sustainability. More critically the authors argue that these commitments are driven more by the search for efficiency gains, that they are couched within existing business models centred on continuing growth and that as such the world’s leading e-retailers are, at best, currently pursuing a ‘weak’ rather than a ‘strong’ model of sustainability.
KeywordsSustainability, e-retailers, sustainable consumption, economic growth, external assurance
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