how does Cdiscount reduce its environmental impact?

L’Usine Digitale: According to Arcep’s latest report, digital technology is responsible for 2.5% of France’s carbon footprint. How does this issue, intrinsic to your activity, work, namely in your datacenters?

Caroline Bordet Le Lann: The cooling of our two datacenters, which are hosted by third parties in Paris and Bordeaux, is done using freecooling [ndlr : un système de refroidissement qui transporte l’air extérieur, après correction de l’humidité, vers les salles de données]. But in reality, the primary responsible for the carbon impact of digital technology are the endpoints and the network, datacenters only come later.

Therefore, we carry out global work, in particular optimizing the site: reducing the length of pages, imposing formats for the size of visual elements, reducing the number of cookies, using compression algorithms. In addition, we detect fake traffic (bots). This reduction allowed us to reduce electricity consumption in our data centers by 10%, while traffic increased at the same rate. We owe this to our IT teams who, since 2019, have had bonuses in website performance indicators, but also in optimizing the code and architecture of the website and in reducing tasks.

We are also fighting usage obsolescence by offering a lighter version of the site on phones that are three years old and older: this improves navigation fluidity by 20%. And then we make sure to keep our own equipment as long as possible: the servers, but also the computers and smartphones of our employees. Its average usage is about five years. We go beyond manufacturer warranties with an in-house repair service, and when machines leave the fleet, most of them are rebuilt.

Has this also limited its impact on the telecommunications network?

Thus, we reduced the energy impact of the site on bandwidth by 50% in two years.

Speaking of the grid, what is your reaction to the government announcements about a possible suppression of the electricity grid?

The issue of generators is special because, in order to respond to a supply problem, it consists of greatly increasing our carbon impact… We are naturally prepared to allow business continuity but we hope not to have to resort to that.

In parallel with digital, should logistics and transport represent a major project in reducing Cdiscount’s environmental footprint?

Obviously, but we reduced delivery-related GHG emissions by 30% between 2017 and 2021 through a combination of several actions. Investment in packaging machines, namely six 3D machines that allow us to eliminate the vacuum in packaging: the products are scanned, we obtain their exact dimensions and the card fits perfectly. But also bulk loading: when leaving the pallets, a conveyor arrives at the warehouses where operators literally make a Tetris with the boxes to fill the trucks from floor to ceiling. These two actions combined mean 6,000 fewer trucks on the road every year! We also went through simple things, like grouping products regularly ordered together in the same warehouses.

Furthermore, from leaving the warehouse to collecting via long-distance transport to the last kilometer, we try to find alternative modes of transport: electric, cargo bike or even bio LPG. We know where orders are sent, where there are opportunities for massification, we work hand in hand with carriers, by geographic area and flow by flow. Since 2017, we even offer express delivery (very criticized), 100% electric!

As ?

Orders leave Bordeaux by electric vehicles to the Saint Jean station, then by TGV to the Paris region and again by electric vehicles to cover the last kilometer. This last kilometer is very problematic, because over it there is no mass flow, nor alternative vehicle. That is why we are developing our network of collection points, namely in rural areas (where the customer sometimes travels 50 km alone by car) thanks to a partnership with Agricolis, farmers who also operate collection points.

As a retailer, what weighs the most in your carbon footprint is the offer, the products you sell, the famous SCOP 3?

Transport for us is also SCOP 3 as we do not own the fleets. But yes, we focus a lot of energy on the products we sell. For several years now, we have built an offer of used products with refurbished and used items, very initially focused on phones and computers (in our sales, 1 phone in 4 and 1 computer in 10 are refurbished). Now it’s expanding with refurbished strollers and even scooters. On the other hand, two years ago we launched a “more responsible products” program, which consists of highlighting refurbished or naturally less energy-intensive products.

How concretely?

They are marked with a clearly visible “more responsible” or “more energy efficient” sticker. We also highlight products that are easy to repair, based on the repairability index; and those certified by independent third parties (FIC wood, GOTS textiles, etc.). We ask our sellers to justify these elements when they exist.

With more than 20 million unique visitors per month, we are a media: we have just entered into a partnership with RTE to transmit Ecowatt alerts to our customers on the website and internally to our employees. We have an information role, but also an awareness role: for example, products that are already well packaged for which there is no risk of breakage or fraud, we ship in this way to avoid overpacking. We inform the customer: “the product will not be packed, if you still want additional packaging, check this box”. If they tick, we ask again “Are you sure you want one?” to trigger a real act of reflection in the consumer.

In general, we evaluate the ESG policies of our largest suppliers and vendors. This is an opportunity to discuss their practices, ours, to identify synergies, projects to carry out together… For example, we are discussing with toy sellers, because we identified that having a plastic part lifted forced us to pack too much. We ask you to consider adapting your packaging for e-commerce, as the marketing function of clear plastic is useless online.

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