High Season for the Consumer, Low Season for the Environment


With this series, we take a closer look into the world of the Consumer and the processes and people who make this demanding and convenience-driven industry tick.  The AIMS Consumer Practice Group has a close-knit team of expert Consultants spread across 12 different countries who are working for the world’s leading consumer brand manufacturing, retail and services companies.  These partnerships put us on the cutting edge of development in this highly demanding and fast-paced environment. 

Episode 2 : How can growth in online shopping be sustainable for our environment?

Cyber Monday, Black Friday and Christmas shopping bring a huge increase in consumer spending, mainly driven by online sales. Millions of containers of consumer products will be sent across the continents via different warehouses and finally delivered to consumers in the comfort of their homes. Freight planes, container ships, trains, trucks and delivery carriers all have an impact on the environment.

An increasing number of consumers are concerned and rethinking their buying behavior: They are buying fair manufactured products, they are buying ‘local’ and they are picking up their pre-ordered boxes at special stations or in-store. Some are utilizing public transport or even biking into the cities to meet with friends, having a cup of coffee and shopping local produce, ideally manufactured in their own neighbourhood.  Neighbourhood markets are on the increase, selling sustainably produced food and ‘green’ wares from the local area.

Certain retailers and manufacturers are adjusting or radically changing their business models, trying to capture the environmentally aware consumer and employees by considering their environmental impact. Ikea, the global leader in furniture business, has just announced the reduction of the planned number of green field projects but instead to increase the number of smaller outlets in city locations where consumers can shop offline or can order selected products online for pick up. The fundamental challenge of retailers like Ikea in order to develop a sustainable business model for the future is to synchronize successfully their online and offline channels targeting a convenient and environmentally friendly buying experience for the consumers in both worlds. Stores in the UK have ‘non plastic packaging’ isles where discerning consumers can shop responsibly. Many restaurants have stopped supplying plastic straws with beverages, instead encouraging customers to buy re-usable bamboo straws.

Companies are also planning ahead when it comes to environmental issues by equipping their organizations with the right skills and talent. Global and regional corporations are building an internal structure for corporate social responsibility (CSR), organized top down from senior management into operational units. With its global network of partners and consultants, supported by the expertise within the Consumer global practice team, AIMS International supports clients to find candidates and specialists with matching CSR profiles, who understand growing consumer trends.  It is increasingly important to have the right ambassadors for your business, promoting your brand, not only amongst consumers, but also understanding and developing your employer brand, in order to entice top talent amongst the environmentally aware younger generations. Customers all over the world are already strongly determining their buying decisions by environmental conditions. Moreover, this trend will accelerate.

Finally an example of changing of buying behavior: To a degree, the predecessor of e-commerce is mail order. The German company Otto issued its last seasonal mail order catalogue in 2019. The first edition of this “printed department store” was released in 1951. Meanwhile Otto is the second strongest online company in Germany – after Amazon!

Written by Paul Koglin, Associate Partner AIMS Germany