Online Purchasing Creates Opportunities to Lower the Life Cycle Carbon Footprints of Consumer Products

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (August 30, 2016 v113 n35 p9780-9785; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1522211113) / by Steven C. Isley, et al.

A major barrier to reducing greenhouse emissions from economic consumption involves information about product supply chains. Consumers who wish to reduce or offset the emissions embodied in goods and services they buy have no economical way to inform such choices. Vendors often can, but rarely do, gather embodied carbon information at little cost and offer it to consumers. They can also bundle carbon offsets for customers, thus facilitating choices. We report on a series of experiments using online interfaces to offer carbon footprint information and offset bundling in four sectors: online retailing, ride sharing, video streaming, and short-term lodging. Results indicate that firms can reduce their supply chains’ carbon footprints while improving customer satisfaction by facilitating consumers’ proenvironmental choices.


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