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Retail Carbon Footprints: Measuring Impacts from Real Estate and Technology

The retail sector has seen more transformation than any other real estate asset class in recent history, due to advances in technology, innovations in the supply chain and ever-advancing changes in consumer behavior.  As a result, it faces an opportunity to impact the long-term shape of carbon emissions.  Where once consumers flocked to suburban shopping malls and the brick-and-mortar stores of city streets, ecommerce and its next-day-delivery capability has completely altered how we purchase all forms of goods.  Which of these retail strategies leads to lower GhG levels, then?

The MIT Real Estate Innovation Labs recent study, “Retail Carbon Footprints: Measuring Impacts from Real Estate and Technology,” aims to answer this question. While ecommerce was found to be the more sustainable option in more than 75% of the scenarios developed in our base case, our research ultimately illustrates the power of scale and location for both strategies.  In order to achieve lower GhG emissions, we must reconsider the basic components within the supply chain. 

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