Consumers willing to pay more for sustainably-delivered products

Updated May 15, 2014

More than half of consumers are willing to pay at least 5 percent higher prices for products ordered online if they’re delivered sustainably, and 76 percent would wait at least one extra day for climate-friendly transport, according to a new study by business and technology consulting firm West Monroe Partners.

Though consumers seem positive about greener delivery, the study found that U.S. consumers are mostly unaware such delivery options exist.

“Given the dominance of ecommerce and trends such as same and next-day delivery, order fulfillment’s impact on the environment is a significant one,” said Yves Leclerc, managing director and leader of West Monroe Partners’ supply chain practice. “Consumers are willing to sacrifice for products delivered in ways that don’t yield damaging greenhouse gas emissions – they just need to be aware of these alternative delivery models first.”

In its Need for Green or Need for Speed study, West Monroe Partners surveyed more than 600 U.S. consumers to determine what compromises they’d be willing to make for more sustainable delivery of products purchased online. Highlights from the study include:

  • 12 percent of US consumers would pay up to 10 percent more for sustainable delivery.
  • Annual income was not an influential factor in consumers’ willingness to pay more for sustainable delivery. In fact, respondents who earn over $100,000 a year were slightly less likely to accept higher prices for climate-friendly transport.
  • Similarly, age had only a minor impact on attitudes toward sustainability, with 18-25 year olds slightly less likely to pay more for climate-friendly transport compared to 26-35 year olds.

However, the study does show that, if knowledgeable about the options available to them, many consumers would make at least minor concessions for more sustainable delivery.

Management and technology consultancy BearingPoint conducted the same study in Europe and found consumers there are more aware of green delivery options. Of the 1,000 European respondents BearingPoint surveyed, nearly half were aware of climate-friendly shipping alternatives and one in five has already used them. Almost 60 percent were willing to pay more for green shipping and 76 percent were willing to wait up to three days longer for sustainable delivery.

E-commerce organizations therefore should consider new ways to promote delivery alternatives to please both consumers and shareholders. Firms should build sustainable processes into their supply chains and use tools to track and report on progress.

West Monroe and BearingPoint’s Logistics Emissions Calculator (LogEC) tool provides companies with detailed calculations and analyses regarding the environmental impact of their transportation while providing specialized optimization potentials.

“The modern consumer is paying more than lip service to environmentally-conscious decisions these days, and plenty are willing to put their money – and patience – where their mouths are,” said Leclerc. “E-commerce shops and logistics providers offering options such as flexible delivery windows and transportation modes will miss out on a major opportunity unless they put more effort into educating their customers. In addition, companies that don’t implement sustainable delivery practices now expose themselves to shareholder and customer risk as legislation may continue to put limits on a company’s carbon emissions.”