Press Release

‘Nudging’ online shoppers away from home deliveries can reduce air pollution – study

Shoppers who received a ‘nudge’ at the checkout about the environmental impact of home deliveries chose Click & Collect 71% of the time in a new experiment.

The Behavioural Insights Team – also sometimes known as ‘The Nudge Unit’ – ran a trial as part of think tank Centre for London’s research into how to get more people to walk or cycle to get their package.

Centre for London found that home deliveries resulted in 100 million kilograms of CO2 emissions in London in 2020-21 – the equivalent of heating approximately 36,000 homes or 125,000 flights from London to New York.

Air quality has also been affected by the increase in delivery vans as more people use online shopping. Air pollution accounts for 4,000 premature deaths in London each year.

Much of the impact on the environment and air quality comes from the ‘last mile’ – the journey of a parcel from the local depot to your front door. Getting people to switch to an ‘active last mile’ – walking or cycling to pick up their package – would reduce that impact.

How can we get people to choose that option? The Behavioural Insights Team trial found that a ‘nudge’ during checkout about the environmental impact of deliveries led shoppers to choose Click & Collect 71% of the time.

The control group who didn’t receive a nudge chose Click & Collect 40% of the time, while people nudged that picking up their parcel would be more convenient than delivery chose Click & Collect 62% of the time.

82% of Londoners in the trial who chose Click & Collect planned to walk or cycle to get their package.

But for this to work, London and the rest of the country need more Click & Collect shops and lockers in better locations.

Right now, collection points are clustered around high streets, but 62% of Londoners don’t live near these. Centre for London is calling for collection points within 250 metres of 90% of Londoners’ homes.

Millie Mitchell, Researcher at Centre for London, said:

“Better air quality would be the perfect Christmas gift for Londoners, but you can’t order it online.

Our trial finds that shoppers want to go green. We need to help them with parcel collection points near where they live.

We can’t let this important infrastructure be held up by the planning system or a lack of collaboration in the parcel sector.”

Kate Langford, Programme Director of the Health effects of air pollution programme at Impact on Urban Health, said:

“Air pollution has devastating effects on people’s health, particularly for the most vulnerable people in cities, like children.

London is one of the most congested cities in Europe and van deliveries are expected to increase. More vans equals increased congestion, with in turn leads to higher levels of air pollution.

This report shows how retailers, delivery companies, and shoppers can work together to reduce the impact of parcel deliveries on our air quality.”

Dr Craig Johnson, Senior Advisor at The Behavioural Insights Team, said:

“The Behavioural Insights Team is delighted to support the Centre for London and Impact on Urban’s Health efforts to improve air quality in London.

Our work suggests that people are willing to walk to collect their parcels rather than relying on home deliveries by van, and that some straightforward changes could make that much more likely.

Future work with the parcel sector, local authorities and the Mayor of London is essential to make these positive changes.”