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Student project brings S Group information on sustainability in online retailing

Students also praised for positive attitude and independent approach to work.
S Group head office "Ässäkeskus" is located in Helsinki. Photo: Nina Kaverinen

A student team from the Aalto University School of Business delved into questions of social and environmental sustainability in e-commerce at the request of the S Group. The students' comprehensive study and proposals for action establish an overall picture of accountability in online retailing, establishing a basis for the planning of sustainability in e-commerce communications. The project was part of the Customized Student Business Projects concept of the School of Business.

The three-member student team includes Sini Olkanen of the Corporate Communication master's programme, Leena Tasala of the bachelor's programme in marketing, and Tiina Ohrling of the Creative Sustainability programme.

Online stores are becoming a more common as a place for consumers to do their shopping. Alongside digitalisation and globalisation, the development of commerce is significantly affected by increasing interest among consumers toward the social and environmental impact of consumption.

'We clarified to the S Group how questions of sustainability are seen at this moment in e-commerce and the consumers' perception of the how responsible online retailers are. We analysed aspects of liability both in research on the sustainability of online stores, in legislation, and in leading online retailers. In addition, we carried out a survey with whose help we analysed the significance of sustainability in e-commerce to consumers and the importance that it has for their online consumption behaviour. Finally, we made proposals for building communications sustainability for e-commerce', the students say.

Concrete proposals for aspects of sustainability in online retailing

'International e-commerce is growing fast in Finland as well, and we were interested in finding out how online retailers take aspects of sustainability into consideration in their activities and communications, and on the other hand, in how consumers feel about e-commerce from the point of view of sustainability. Tiina, Sini and Leena compiled a comprehensive and versatile package of information for us on current aspects of sustainability in e-commerce. The students carried out the project with a positive attitude, independently, and in the allotted time frame, and gave us good points of view for the development of our activities', says Lea Rankinen, Senior Vice President for Sustainability and CSR at SOK.

According to researcher Mikko Hänninen, who directed the project, the project brilliantly brought together a topical research theme with an industrious group of students who managed to produce concrete proposals for the S Group in responsible communications in e-commerce.

'The students were very successful in turning their broad assignment into a few concrete recommendations, making use of several different research methods in their work. Thanks to the conclusions that were drawn the S Group got plenty of new information and understanding on the state of sustainability in e-commerce in 2018. Guiding and sparring with such a talented group of students is meaningful', Hänninen says.

'The project was a very rewarding experience that gave us plenty of new points of view and skills both for team work and for the handling of wide-ranging material. We believe that this will be very useful in the future', the student team commented.

The Customized Student Business Projects concept offers students the opportunity to work on solving current challenges faced by corporate business, giving the assigning company the possibility to develop and spar new ideas together with the students.

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