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Green E-commerce Action Guide (Addressing the Environmental Impacts of Retail E-commerce in China)

  • Published on February 14, 2023

As an emerging business model, online retail has accounted for a quarter of the total consumer spending in China and continues to grow amid COVID-19 outbreaks. China has been the world's largest online retail market for eight consecutive years and is home to a number of highly influential e-commerce retailers. As one of the new drives for economic growth, China's e-commerce retailers should also fulfill their responsibility for environmental governance and have a positive influence on promoting environment-friendly and sustainable development. 

The Green E-Commerce Action Guide -- Addressing the Environmental Impacts of Retail E-commerce in China presents an analysis of the environmental impacts of retail e-commerce in China, as well as recommendations on actions for each type of impact incorporating relevant policy guidelines and industry best practices in China and in other countries. The types of environmental impacts identified in the Report include climate change, solid waste and circular economy, chemicals management, biodiversity protection, and sustainable food.

China's e-commerce has experienced rapid development in the past two decades. By 2020, the online retail sales of physical goods accounted for about 1/4 of the total retail sales of consumer goods. Consumers have switched heavily to online shopping. The number of online shopping users in China reached 782 million, accounting for 79.1 percent of the total netizens. E-commerce has been fully integrated into all aspects of production and life in China, and has become an important driver of socioeconomic development. China's e-commerce industry is concentrated with large and influential companies, occupying four of the top five e-commerce companies by global market capitalization in 2020. 

With the development of the online retail industry, its environmental externalities have gradually become prominent. From the pollution of logistics and transportation, waste of express delivery packaging, energy consumption of data centers, to toxic and harmful chemicals, food waste, and biodiversity destruction, the environmental impacts of retail e-commerce have increased along with the expansion of the industry. These environmental impacts are not unique to the Chinese retail e-commerce industry. Many e-commerce retailers in other countries have already mapped out their environmental impacts, and have established corporate sustainability strategies to address the impacts. Chinese e-commerce retailers have a long way to go in this regard, and urgently need to review their environmental impacts and set goals and targets for improvement. 

The Green E-Commerce Action Guide -- Addressing the Environmental Impacts of Retail E-commerce in China presents an analysis of the environmental impact of e-commerce retailers, and offers corporate action recommendations for multiple environmental impact dimensions, by incorporating domestic and foreign policy trends and best practices. The report aims to help e-commerce retailers better respond to regulatory and investor requirements, enhance corporate environmental responsibility, and play a more active role in the country's low-carbon green transformation. 

This is the first report of its kind in the Chinese e-commerce industry, offering a path of guidance on how retail e-commerce companies can participate in environmental protection, which is groundbreaking and informative on a global scale.

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