Dr. Lynette Cheah, an associate professor of engineering systems at the Singapore University of Technology and Design presented, “Carbon footprint assessment of cross-border e-commerce shipping options” on October 15, 2021 for the Smart Freight Centre Leadership Seminar Series. The study she presented was a collaborative research effort with her master’s student, Qiuhong Huang. Cheah opened the seminar by addressing the expansion of e-commerce markets and an expected rise in cross-border revenues. She went on to discuss drivers of this trend in her region of Southeast Asia, including:
- Growth in internet connectivity and accessibility
- Online marketplace social commerce platforms
- Lack of physical retail infrastructure
People are spending online globally at a higher rate than domestically because of lower prices and high product availability. This can be damaging to our ecosystem because goods transported over greater distances require carbon-intensive international freight transportation like air freight or long-haul trucks. On the demand side, consumers make their shipping choice based on the cost, speed and value of the order. Cost is the most important deciding factor, but if the cost is marginal, consumers may still choose faster shipping even if they do not need fast delivery. Carbon labelling allows consumers to see the underlying cost of cross-border e-commerce.. Cheah presented her research data and analysis of the growing number of eco-conscious consumers and the influence of labels – including the sustainability information of the product. Slower delivery by sea freight results in fewer carbon emissions than faster delivery by air freight. Cheah conducted a shipping preference survey to evaluate the effect of carbon labelling on shipping options for products as seen on Taobao, a popular e-commerce website in China. The results of her survey revealed that a large percentage of respondents were willing to compromise on the speed of delivery, or even pay more for a greener alternative, when a carbon label was introduced. Carbon labelling on e-commerce platforms may help reduce the carbon footprint of deliveries, Cheah concludes. UTTRI Executive Director Dr. Judy Farvolden moderated Q & A following the seminar.
Watch the presentation video recording
- YouTube: “Carbon footprint assessment of cross-border e-commerce shipping options,” Professor Lynette Cheah, October 15, 2021.
In the bid to stay competitive, online shopping platforms often offer a variety of shipping options to meet the preferences of consumers. While faster delivery might be desirable for consumers, this may be detrimental to the environment. This study aims to conduct a comparative carbon footprint assessment of shipping options available in Taobao, a highly popular Chinese online shopping website. We evaluate the case of cross-border e-commerce, where goods are ordered from China to Singapore as the shipment destination. Thereafter, a shipping choice preference survey is conducted to evaluate the impact of carbon labelling on consumers’ shipping preferences. Out of 188 survey respondents, slightly more than half (55%) were found to be willing to compromise the speed of delivery for a less carbon-intensive alternative. Given this finding, the study advocates for carbon labelling to be introduced for e-commerce shipping options.
About the speaker
Lynette Cheah is an Associate Professor of Engineering Systems at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). She directs the Sustainable Urban Mobility research laboratory, which develops data-driven models and tools to reduce the environmental impacts of passenger and urban freight transport. She is currently Associate Editor for the Journal of Industrial Ecology and Review Editor for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report. More information about Professor Cheah’s research is available here.
Previously on the Smart Freight Centre Leadership Seminar Series
- Genevieve Giuliano presents “Heavy duty trucks: The challenge of getting to zero,” May 5, 2021
- Miguel Jaller presents “Who shops online and how sustainable is the delivery process?” February 12, 2021
- Alison Conway presents “Freight and Complete Streets: Moving Goods in Shared Urban Space,” November 6, 2020