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Retailers could help us better understand the environmental implications of our actions online

Europe aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050, and I, for one, look forward to doing my part in saving the planet: heating my home with solar panels, buying an electric vehicle, even learning to love synthetic steak.

I just have one request: online retailers, help me fall in love with leading a greener life. Thanks to your ingenuity, I am now addicted to online convenience – and thanks to being cooped up during the pandemic, many more people are like me.

As a consultant who advises on digital strategies, I can see many opportunities for online retailers to encourage people to be green, while benefiting consumers, companies and the planet.

But we need help. The consulting firm where I work, Oliver Wyman, found in a recent study we conducted with CDP Europe, a non-profit organisation that helps companies disclose their environment impact, only 10% of European companies are currently on track to reach the Paris Agreement’s goal to keep a global temperature.

So, online retailers: use the mountains of data collected from my searches and shopping to predict which green product I might like to try next. Many online grocery shops already show when a van is in my area. Enable me to select a ‘greener’ slot to avoid duplicated trips. Show me the impact of my basket and suggest better swaps. By doing so, retailers can help us better understand the environmental implications of our actions.

And don’t stop there. Help me find something green for my mother, my friends, my dog, for every occasion. Show me the ‘greenest’ restaurants, hotels and shops near me. Alert me if I step into a grocery store that isn’t following green best practices or an energy services provider that is spewing carbon.

Give me an avatar like the ones on display during London Fashion Week, which has exactly my measurements so I can try on clothes virtually and reduce emissions with fewer returns.

Innovate. Develop new digital-first services synonymous with green-first. Nowadays, investors are flocking to companies that are considered good for the environment – retailers that seize this moment could be the tech giants of the future.

Being green matters to consumers. More than half say corporate commitments to reducing their carbon footprint influence where they shop, according to a recent seven-nation survey of almost 5,600 people conducted by the Oliver Wyman Forum.

This is especially true for younger shoppers in the UK: almost 70% of those between the ages of 18 and 40 said committing to save the planet influenced their purchases. So move now, and move fast.