Behind the scenesSustainability

Our carbon footprint as epiphany moment

Tobias Billeter
Zurich, on 24.06.2020
Translation: Eva Francis

To discuss weather carbon compensation makes sense or not, we need facts. That's why we've calculated our climate footprint across the entire value chain. The result is surprising: our savings potential is very limited.

«Great, more selling of indulgence. No thanks, you hypocrites,» user Tim Struppi commented on our latest press release titled «Adieu CO2: Digitec Galaxus introduce CO2-neutral shopping.» Tim Struppi is by no means alone with this opinion. Therefore, let's begin with the good news: we're not disciples of Opus Dei. As a tech-savvy online retailer based in Zurich, we're definitely closer to enlightenment than indulgence. We care about facts – and we couldn’t care less about purgatory.

Less than 1 percent leverage

We wanted to understand every detail of our responsibility in terms of carbon emissions, so we commissioned our climate partner South Pole to calculate the carbon footprint of Digitec Galaxus. The results are both encouraging and sobering: the company's own emissions make up less than 1% of all direct and indirect emissions associated with our business model. This includes emissions caused by our servers, eleven stores and the entire logistics chain, including packaging and transport from the warehouse to customers' doorsteps.

In other words: Digitec Galaxus has very little influence on 99% of all emissions. The lion's share of CO2 is released in the process of extracting raw materials, production as well as use and disposal of products. Very well, in theory, we could ban all carbon-heavy products and downsize our range according to strict climate criteria. However, our customers are neither looking for indulgence nor do they want to be patronised. They expect transparency and want to have the choice to buy what they think is right.

94% of greenhouse gases are emitted during production

The above calculation of the carbon footprint is based on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol model (GHG Protocol). The emissions that we can influence (Scope 1 and Scope 2) show our proportion of the carbon footprint as a retailer and logistics provider. Indirect emissions that we can't influence (Scope 3) show the harmful carbon that's caused in the upstream and downstream value creation stages. Two factors are crucial: firstly, the extraction of raw materials and the production of goods, which accounts for around 94%, and secondly, the use of the goods, which amounts to a mere 5%. Use, in this context, refers to the energy that our mixers, lawnmowers or PC fans consume during their lifetime. The conclusion? If you want to reduce your carbon footprint effectively, buy durable and energy-efficient quality products.

Too big boxes – seriously?

One thing that's often stated is that we should stop using oversized cardboard boxes to package and send our goods to customers. Stefan88's comment is quite clear: «As long as digitec/galaxus continue sending tiny products in huge cardboard boxes, it's nothing but hot air...». We agree that we need and want to improve this. Today, 90% of all orders are packed in tailor-made parcels and without using filling material. When it comes to the remaining 10%, there's room to improve – especially for bulky items or deliveries from our merchant partners. We're going to take on this challenge, even though the carbon savings related to packaging are relatively small. The proof is in the pudding.

We'll soon report on whether and how well online shoppers respond to the carbon compensation option. What we already see is that several thousand purchases have been compensated since the introduction of the new feature. Either our customers feel the heat of the nearby purgatory and are purchasing of a pardon for their sins after all or they're act according to the motto of open-minded consumers: «Do your best and compensate the rest». To find out more about the chances and limits of carbon compensation, check out this in interview with sustainability adviser Roman Bolli.

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Tobias Billeter
Head of Corporate Communications
tobias.billeter@digitecgalaxus.ch

Making sure employees and media know what's up at Digitec Galaxus is my job. But without fresh air and a lot of exercise, I basically stop functioning. The great outdoors provides me with the energy I need to stay on the ball. Jazz gives me the tranquility to tame my kids. 


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