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EMAC 2022 Annual

A Comparison of Perceived Environmental Sustainability of Brick-and-Mortar Retailing and Online Retailing

Published: May 24, 2022


Patrick Klein, Saarland University, Department of Business Administration, in particular Retail Management; Bastian Popp, Saarland University


Sustainability has become paramount in society and retail. Therefore, this research aims to compare the environmental sustainability of brick-and-mortar retail and e-commerce. A literature review identifies key determinants of this comparison and shows that most previous studies focus on objective criteria. Three empirical studies provide insights into the perceived environmental sustainability of each channel to reflect the importance of the consumers’ perspective for channel choice. Surprisingly, in contrast to the experts’ view, consumers perceive e-commerce as less sustainable than brick-and-mortar retailing. Given the potential negative impact on online purchasing behaviour, online retailers should improve their communication strategy and highlight environmental advantages of e-commerce or omni-channel retailing. Moreover, online retailers should continue their efforts towards more sustainability and improving environmental aspects in logistics, packaging and return management.