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Regular Industry Development Updates, Opinions and Talking Points relating to Manufacturing, the Supply Chain and Logistics.

How to build sustainability into last mile deliveries

13-Jun-2019
How to build sustainability into last mile deliveries
E-commerce has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the last decade and with the preference for online shopping has come an equally substantial rise in the number of delivery vehicles on the roads. With more and more parcels being delivered to homes and workplaces around the country, congestion and transport-related carbon emissions have increased significantly – particularly in cities with large populations that have long been troubled by busy transport systems and grid-locked roads. Emissions produced by idle vehicles in traffic is one of the greatest causes of pollution, and is quickly becoming a difficult issue to address as the ecommerce industry has continued to grow.

With this in mind, addressing the environmental impact of online shopping is now a prevalent issue. Initiatives such as the introduction of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone have forced many businesses to reduce the number of vehicles they use and adapt to cleaner alternatives but, when this is combined with the need to meet consumer expectations of same-day and next-day deliveries, retailers and couriers are now under a huge amount of pressure. Not only do they have to ensure that they remain competitive, but they also need to make sure they’re being sustainable. So, how can e-commerce businesses play their part in building a more sustainable supply chain?

Doing more with less

When it comes to sustainable mobility solutions and reducing the emissions produced by drivers, electric vehicles have been touted as a viable alternative for the future. However, the issue is that the adoption of electric vehicles will not solve the congestion issue. Challenges such as the frequency of failed deliveries therefore also need to be taken into consideration, as a significant number of online orders are not delivered at the first attempt, making it costly and time-consuming for the retailer and courier. One solution is to minimise the number of miles travelled by each courier in a way that reduces the amount of time they have to spend waiting in traffic or searching for parking spaces but doesn’t impact the number of packages they are able to deliver. This is where the use of lockers comes into play, ensuring that parcels spend less time in last mile transit.

Streamlining the last mile by only having to deliver to a handful to lockers instead of hundreds of destinations significantly cuts the emissions produced by vans driving between homes to deliver individual packages, as well as creating a direct and clear route between retailer and consumer.

Lockers also ensure that deliveries are made at the first attempt, as customers can choose to collect their parcels at a time that suits them. Importantly for retailers, this reduces the number of failed deliveries – which occur 5.6 per cent of the time according to research from PCA Predict – the significance of which is made clear in the context of the four billion UK packages predicted to be delivered in 2021.

Appeal to eco-friendly consumers

When it comes to their purchasing habits, more and more consumers are now actively trying to make greener decisions. For example, eight in ten consumers are trying to reduce their plastic waste and half are willing to pay higher prices for eco-friendly packaging, highlighting the shift towards being more environmentally-friendly. While a sustainable supply chain alone is perhaps not enough to motivate a consumer to make a purchase, it is likely to drive long-term brand loyalty among the growing number of environmentally conscious consumers.

In today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, retailers are constantly looking for new ways to attract, acquire and retain consumers and differentiate themselves from the competition. Offering greener delivery options such as parcel lockers at the checkout is a simple way for online retailers to stand out from the crowd

While there’s no silver bullet solution to transforming sustainability in the ecommerce supply chain, many of the biggest last mile inefficiencies can be addressed by using parcel lockers. By reducing traffic congestion, minimising parcel destinations and creating a direct and clear route between retailer and consumer, parcel lockers have a key role to play in helping retailers build a more sustainable supply chain for the future.

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