Black Friday ominously shares its name with one of Australia’s worst-ever bushfire events, so it’s no wonder brands are rebranding it to ‘bright’ or even ‘green’ Friday. In reality, it’s far from either of those things. A study showed that emissions from retail trucks soared by 94% during Black Friday week. And that’s before you start considering the packaging.

Coinciding in the same month as COP27 – The United Nations Climate Change Conference – you have to question if the bargain buys are worth it and what the cost of that new half-price electric toothbrush is.

Many Black Friday shoppers are shopping for Christmas anyway. It’s not all doom and gloom, as retailers could make the most of this frenzy to find supply chain efficiencies aided by volume. Collaborative supply chains are an option for forward-thinking retailers that want to shrink their carbon footprint.

So is playing with time and cost to get a greener result, especially given that two-thirds of Australians are willing to pay more for a sustainable delivery option, with 80% happy to wait longer. The alternative is a continued race to the bottom to provide the fastest and cheapest delivery options, which can only land a brand on the wrong side of environmental history. 

Many studies show that ordering groceries online is better for the environment because it’s a one-to-many trip and making this clear to customers could help bring them along on the journey. Making slower and more expensive deliveries a brand benefit will require some technological engineering that more closely links our digital purchases with their physical impact.

Retailers could allow people to choose delivery dates and times better for the environment or even allow comparisons between click and collect and delivery. Giving a choice in this way should empower consumers and add a feel-good environmental factor to online shopping – how many of our purchases would immediately become non-urgent if we were given the option to do better by the environment? And how good would we feel about it? 

It’s good for the planet and business – by aggregating orders using platforms like Shopify and Salesforce that can do this automatically, retailers can save time and money from a delivery and logistics perspective. AI and data analysis can help understand consumer preferences and enhance their online shopping experience – and centralised pick-up points for orders made in local shopping centres where those brands are based would create that additional opportunity to increase any last-minute sales in physical stores. 

If you think more broadly about where this might lead, greater collaboration between retailers to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the retail sector could be on the cards. In the same way that Apple TV brings streaming apps together to make finding a movie more efficient, there’s an opportunity for a similar interface for retail purchases where you stockpile your non-urgent online purchases and get notified when the most eco-friendly time to get them delivered together rolls around.

Suppose retailers want to move away from the carbon-heavy fog of Black Friday. In that case, it might be a bit greener and brighter to use these peak shopping periods as a testbed for some much-needed environmentally friendly digital innovation.

James Noble is chief experience officer for APAC at WONGDOODY.