A pandemic-induced surge in online purchases has forced parcel and postal carriers to rapidly increase their delivery services.
Companies such as DHL announced record growth during 2020, as well as new operational hubs, depots and staff to support demand.
And there are strong demands. Consumers want to decide for themselves where, when and how a package is delivered. Not only does this need to be delivered fast and cost effectively, but consumers are also wanting providers to think sustainably in the way they ship goods.
The environmental impact of e-commerce is still not clear. On the one hand reports show that Amazon emits nearly as much carbon dioxide as a small country and nearly a third of the solid waste in the USA comes from e-commerce packaging. But there are also studies that show e-commerce appears to be positive: Offline purchases cause between 1.5 and 2.9 times more greenhouse gas emissions than online purchases, according to a study by Oliver Wyman. E-commerce does require delivery trucks, but these reduce car traffic by four to nine times the amount they generate. Land use for e-commerce is less than for physical retail when logistics, retail space and associated parking are included. No matter what’s right in the end, e-commerce companies can do more on sustainability…
Consumers expect brands to fulfill both their orders and their idea of a sustainable future. E-commerce and delivery services are booming, and consumers expect reinvestment towards meeting reduced carbon levels and even net-zero targets. Not fulfilling these expectations puts the entire business at risk.
Although not yet pervasive across e-commerce, more and more businesses are coming up with sustainable solutions that meet both environmental aims and consumer demand.
The mountains of parcels delivered during the pandemic has led to an enormous innovation drive within the logistics sector, with four trends in particular contributing to making deliveries more sustainable while putting the customer first.
The best way to tackle a problem is at the source. In other words: making consumers aware of the impact of their delivery option of choice. Ordering online can be as easy as clicking a button and finding your order at your front door the next day. It’s so quick and easy that people don’t even have the chance to think about how their delivery impacts the environment.
Fast delivery is nice, but not always necessary. Many consumers will choose to save money and get their order a bit later. According to an Accenture report, 36% of online shoppers are actually happy to wait longer for free delivery.
Customers could be encouraged to opt for a more sustainable delivery by charging for next-day delivery and offering slow delivery for free. Another option is to let them choose between rush or no-rush delivery, to make them aware of the environmental impact of fast shipping. By communicating clearly in the check-out, online retailers can offer both flexible and green delivery options at the same time.
Another way to ship items to customers quickly and sustainably is to make smart use of existing cargo space, as currently more than 50% of the delivery trucks in Europe drive around partly or completely empty.
Utilising empty cargo space of trucks makes logistics more sustainable while reducing transport costs. For example, via freight platforms such as Saloodo! carrier can offer their unused cargo space to shippers.
The digitalisation of logistics is unstoppable and, fortunately, is reaching ever greater proportions.
At the end of 2020, Saloodo! expanded its platform into a global freight platform and has been continuously expanding worldwide ever since. To date, the company is active on four continents and offers an efficient way to optimise the use of assets. When utilited and organised efficiently, digital platforms can significantly contribute to CO2-reduction methods.
The CO2 reduction is simple in theory: the less time the delivery drivers spend on the road and the greater the utilisation of the truck, the lower the environmental footprint.
Today’s technology allows for automated route optimisation, therefore increasing vehicle efficiency. Greenplan, a DHL-financed start-up, has developed an algorithm that supports green route-planning and accounts for factors such as carbon emissions of vehicle type and range limits of electric vehicles. By combining these, Greenplan creates automated route optimisation for more efficient and sustainable journeys.
Local delivery offers a solution for both sustainable and flexible delivery services. These delivery strategies aren’t just for e-commerce giants, however, as smaller, more independent e-commerce stores can also look closer to home.
For example, if you have many parcels in the region, you can have them delivered by a local courier, maybe even by bike or on foot. Lockers are also becoming more popular, allowing multiple deliveries to be dropped off and picked up at a time convenient to the consumer.
Not only does this save CO2, but the shorter distance often allows you to deliver faster than through a national network.
The delivery market is on the move. In the race for fast and flexible delivery, businesses must also adopt more sustainable, affordable shipping solutions that make the last mile of delivery more eco-friendly.
Innovation in technologies such as automation and electric vehicles as well as smarter delivery strategies are needed to meet consumer demands and deliver sustainably at the same time.
The first steps have been taken. Now it’s time to think outside the (delivery) box.
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