Shoppers forget environmental impact when buying online

Over half of Irish people aiming to live more sustainably in 2021, says survey

While most Irish people are committed to living more sustainably, more than half don't take the environmental impact of deliveries from online shopping into consideration, according to a survey by AIB.

The bank’s latest sustainability index suggested that 53 per cent of people intend to make living more sustainably part of their New Year’s resolutions.

More than two thirds said they intended to reduce the amount of packaging and single use plastics they use, while almost half say they will demand more sustainable food options from their supermarket.

However, the survey, carried out in December in conjunction with Amárach Research, found that half of respondents did not take the environmental impact of deliveries from online shopping into consideration when buying online.


The finding illustrates the challenge of cultivating a more sustainable lifestyle while shopping and operating more online.

“While shopping online has a strong environmental impact due to the effects of transport and packaging, our survey shows that people don’t particularly take this into account,” AIB said.

“ Of those who buy online, almost one in two don’t consider the sustainability of the delivery at all and another one in three only consider it to some extent,” it added.

AIB’s sustainability index focuses on Irish attitudes, behaviours and intentions regarding climate and environmental sustainability.

The research highlighted that 53 per cent of people said sustainability had become more important to them since the start of the pandemic.

The report said the impact of Covid-19 on attitudes towards climate and environmental sustainability has been “muted”.

Climate change

In some cases it has been a catalyst for positive change with 42 per cent of people saying they are doing more to live sustainably than they did before the pandemic began, while 44 per cent haven’t changed, so there has been a net positive impact.

However, the report highlights that Covid-19 has also fuelled online shopping which can have a negative impact in terms of packaging and transport.

The survey found that approximately a third of people stated they are already being personally affected by climate change, while another 36 per cent said they expect to be impacted in the next 10 years.

"Managing climate change is the most important challenge facing this generation. That is why earlier this year we committed to achieving carbon neutrality across our operations by 2030, using a net zero approach," AIB chief executive Colin Hunt said.

“That means cutting greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible – through elimination of carbon rather than offsetting it,” he said.

“We must also look beyond our own operations and the greatest impact that we can have on Ireland’s carbon footprint is by supporting our customers and helping them to transition to a low carbon economy.”

“It is our ambition that green lending should account for 70 per cent of our new customer lending by 2030. As we enter a New Year, it’s heartening that the AIB sustainability index shows that people are planning to live more sustainably,” he said.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times