CEO of BringIt is a delivery organization solution that provides organizations with the most efficient way to manage their complex deliveries.
E-commerce – which has thrived in the wake of lockdowns and social restrictions – was poised for success even before Covid-19 spurred its rapid rise. In all likelihood, it will also hold out after the end of the pandemic. But this begs the question: With sales booming, how can e-commerce make delivery and fulfillment more sustainable, both at a business and environmental level?
Purpose-driven consumers today – those who choose products and brands based on how well they align with their values (now 44% of all consumers) — they demand a certain level of environmental responsibility from the brands they sponsor. With the growing awareness of the climate crisis, reducing carbon emissions has become a priority in many corporate strategies for delivery and fulfillment as well.
Is sustainable delivery worth it?
For e-commerce sellers, improving sustainability is about facilitating optimal routes, short trips, and multi-channel capabilities to reduce transportation emissions.
This principle may seem obvious – an optimal path means a shorter journey, which means fewer emissions – but it is more difficult in practice. A shorter journey doesn’t just require a faster driver. It requires that each delivery be carefully considered and prioritized based on factors such as the location and volume of the order.
Opening small fulfillment centers (which can cater to very specific geographies) and integrating multi-channel delivery fleets (where transportation can be modified for efficiency based on delivery volume and local area) are two potential steps on the road to sustainability.
Aside from helping reduce the company’s environmental impact, sustainable delivery stands for lower delivery costs. This is especially true for Last mile delivery, which represents 53% of total freight costs and 41% of all supply chain costs. But without serious changes, urban delivery is expected to be responsible for a 32% increase in CO2 emissions by 2030.
Achieving sustainable delivery
Nobody will solve this problem alone. The ecosystem must collaborate in new ways, driven by the common goal of protecting our Earth. To bring lasting changes to sustainable e-commerce operations, it can help to consider bold action – catalyzing greener choices among both consumers and businesses, reassessing how and where assets are used and staying informed with data and analytics. Here are some of the main ways you might perform these steps.
Motivating eco-friendly choices
The last mile system should enhance buyer awareness. Make the consumer aware of the environmental impact of each purchase and delivery option, increase transparency in what makes one delivery method more or less sustainable than the other, and offer greener delivery options at the point of checkout. You might be surprised how many customers would choose the greener delivery option, even at the cost of slightly higher expenses or a longer delivery time.
By implementing a “structure of choice,” companies can offer customers a variety of sustainable options such as green packaging, greenhouse gas (GHG) calculators and the option to combine multiple deliveries into one. Sellers can also promote options such as online purchase, in-store pickup (BOPIS), or curbside pickup by offering discounts and Value-added experiences.
Another successful use case is Shopify Carbon Checkout App, allowing consumers to round their purchases to the nearest dollar. Proceeds are donated to projects that reduce global carbon emissions, giving people around the world an accessible way to offset the carbon footprint of any purchase with a simple one click.
Rethink the use of assets
Assets in delivery and fulfillment have always been fairly static, including warehouses, fulfillment centers that stock products, and fleets that deliver them. But as the last-mile operations framework evolves with increased volume, faster delivery times and changing consumer expectations, it is important to begin reallocating assets with sustainability as a priority.
Some retailers, for example, have begun to repurpose stores into smaller fulfillment centers, transforming them into omnichannel centers—a hybrid space that facilitates shopping, collecting merchandise, entering returns and facilitating local deliveries.
Leverage data and analytics
The more a brand knows who will order what, where they will order from/to and when they will place that order, the better the seller can improve delivery and fulfillment.
Developing such highly targeted analytics is an effective way to satisfy customers’ desire for personalization while facilitating sustainability. For example, by extracting insights into the needs of specific customer demographics, geographic groups of users, or different shopping habits throughout the year, retailers can carry appropriate inventory holding units locally and reduce product waste and unnecessary shipments or freight miles.
With this awareness of data, delivery companies can also improve methods for efficiency, speed up delivery and reduce time spent in traffic while also taking into account other real-time conditions such as weather. Precisely optimizing paths, maximizing drop density, reducing supply chain complexity, and enabling data sharing across ecosystems are all key aspects of e-commerce sustainability.
“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
This quote from environmental leader Robert Swan summarizes why it’s important for e-commerce companies to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world by considering sustainability practices like these. Everyone has a role to play in reducing carbon emissions in the pursuit of a better world, and it is up to the e-commerce delivery ecosystem to join together in this crucial endeavour.