5 key steps for switching to green logistics in France

5 key steps for switching to green logistics in France

Julie Ribeiro

Julie Ribeiro

July 16, 2020

In order to "greenify" their logistics management, some companies have found diverse and varied solutions at different levels. And their final objective is simple: to reduce their environmental impact.

Whether it's through packaging, goods transport, technological innovations or other opportunities, there is a whole range of options for going green as an e-merchant. You just have to find the one that's right for you!

1. Transport management and ecological global logistics: a miraculous green solution for e-businesses

The concept of the green supply chain has gradually taken root in people's minds. It consists of setting up company-wide attempts to measure and minimize ecological impact.

Whether it's for regulatory, ethical, or financial reasons, as an e-commerce brand you have the opportunity to take action on your environmental impact at different levels. It all depends on the size of your company, its structure, and the allocated budget!

Even if protecting the environment by modifying your supply chain may involve some investments (time and financial),your efforts will soon be rewarded! Indeed, consumers have the same awareness as entrepreneurs: in 2019, 70% of French people claimed to have selected certain brands over others based on their social and ecological commitments.

From product returns to sourcing, through to packaging, road transport of goods and new technologies, there are many avenues for development. With the help of your logistician or your logistics service providers, identify THE solution that will suit you!

2. Production management and green sourcing

The implementation of greener logistics sometimes requires questioning an entire production logistics organization. Although this can be daunting, the reality is not so unachievable. The proof is that the Cabaïa, Loom and Né à brands have designed all or part of their supply chain with the aim of reducing their environmental impact.

As for the "production" link in their supply chain, they use only local materials. For example, if you make and sell a light pink tailored shirt, you can have it made in the EU(which means much less transport), under the supervision of the eco-labels you rely on. 

Eco-labels are a good way to express your ethical values, in order to be transparent with your buyers. Eco-labels can be applied at different levels of the supply chain, be it production, labor, delivery, or sourcing.

And even if your raw materials come from outside the European Union, you can import them by sea freight, instead of by air. Even if your customers have to wait a few more days, no one will die when it comes to a shirt!

Eco-friendly sourcing and production are becoming more and more important in e-commerce supply chains. Over the years, brands have become more aware of their environmental impact, and the slow industry is starting to take over from the fast concepts (fast fashion, fast food, fast cooking, etc.). 

3. Eco-packaging for cost-effective shipping and packaging

Once the production is finished, then comes the packaging. E-commerce companies tend to wrap their products in plastic tape to ensure that they arrive in good condition. But this is a bad idea if they want to maintain their image and ethical stance! 

You can use reusable and recyclable materials. In certain forms, plastic is for example 100% recyclable. But you can also use alternative materials to plastic: all-natural, milk-based, soluble... There is something for every industry!

Otherwise, other fairly common materials such as cardboard can be recycled in certain contexts. But be careful with cardboard--do not use tape! Add even a small piece of tape to your cardboard, and it is no longer recyclable.

In a purely quantitative way, some e-commerce brands tend to practice over packaging which harms the environment as well as the company's image. For example, if you want to send the light pink tailored shirt to your customer, it is better to adapt the packaging to the product. A shirt is not a fragile object, nor is it bulky. You can therefore easily wrap it in a recyclable plastic pouch or in a small foldable cardboard box.

Even if it is important to have the customer's interest in mind, don't forget the environmental impact of your packaging. Think of all the innovative solutions, which you may not be aware of yet!

4. The implementation of new technologies in your IT logistics network

Beyond the practical side, the theoretical dimension of supply chain management implemented through e-commerce can also have major ecological consequences. But thanks to the emergence of technological innovations, companies are solving this problem little by little!

Brands and companies have developed many technological tricks to reduce their environmental impact at all stages of the supply chain management.

When placing an order, some e-merchants use augmented reality,  so that their buyers can envisage themselves wearing a product. To take the example of the pale pink shirt you sell, if your customer can create an avatar according to their measurements, it will be easier for them to see the reality of the product. That way, there is less risk of return!

If they like the virtual visualization of the shirt, your customer will place an order. And once again, the use of anew technology can help you. There is a lot of software available to help your employees in the warehouse, whether it is to help minimize the risk of order errors, or to optimize the palletization of your means of transport.

To go even further, reducing your carbon footprint can start at the very beginning of your e-commerce creation.Indeed, creating a website implies the use of a computer server. But servers can be a real ecological disaster. To remedy this situation, you can find out how to choose a green host for your e-commerce site that shares your ethical principles.

Between the reduction of returns, better data management, and many other solutions, technological innovations are pushing the green supply chain further and further within everyone's reach!

5. Environmentally-friendly modes of freight transport 

Once your slim-fitted shirt is manufactured, packaged and ready for shipment, the crucial moment comes when you decide on your mode of transport.

Due to the vital urgency of some deliveries, many brands deliver their products by airplane. But for delivering a simple shirt (no matter how pretty it is), maybe it's not worth the rush? Express delivery is fashionable, but ecologically it is not necessarily the right solution.

Many e-merchants choose to go with road deliveries. This is one of the most polluting means of transportation and is the most used (especially because of the last kilometer). Fortunately, many environmentally-friendly alternative means of transport are being introduced little by little.

For example, instead of using only trucks, you can work with a local carrier who uses cargo bikes or electric cars. Similarly, some large cities such as Paris are equipped with warehouse ships, which allow goods to be stored on a barge for delivery to the nearest relay points. All this while limiting CO2 and polluting gas emissions!

Even more concretely, you can rethink your delivery scheme by delivering your products to a collection point in an urban area instead of home addresses. These large warehouses are accessible to the public and allow buyers to come and collect their orders directly and try their products on the spot. For example, your customer will be able to try on their pale pink shirt to see if it is the correct size for them. This way, there is no back-and-forth on the back roads, and no last mile problems!

More and more revolutionary ecological means of transport are appearing on the e-commerce scene. From drone deliveries to bicycle deliveries, there is a logistics solution that suits you!

6. Logistics services to minimize product returns

Beyond the mode of transport to reduce the number of returns, you can take action on an even larger scale. Nearly 40% of clothes ordered on the internet are returned to the supplier-- it is impossible not to think about the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to air pollution. However, as an e-commerce company, you can use different levers to reduce and better manage your product returns.

It is possible to tighten or adjust your return policies. Free returns are now the norm which is excellent for customer service, but very bad for the environment. To minimize the resulting environmental damage of free returns, it is possible, for example, to set up a depot in large cities. For example, if one of your customers buys a light pink slim-fitted shirt on your site, but it turns out to be the wrong size, they can simply pack it back up again and drop it off at their local collection point.Then your carriers come by once a week to collect all the packages and send them back!

Other common reasons for product returns  are discrepancies in product expectation versus reality and the wrong addresses on shipping labels. As an e-merchant, by describing your pale pink tailored shirt in great detail, you reduce the risk of customer disappointment, and therefore the risk of a return.In the same way, before confirming any order you can set up an address verification software. Indeed, many parcels are returned to the sender because of a wrong address.

Some e-merchants go even further, and link eco-friendly returns and eco-packaging, giving a new lease on life to their packaging. Thus, the packaging of your tailored shirt can become a jewelry box, a vase outline, or a drawer decoration. 

The options are endless for rethinking your returns management and for the continuous improvement of your eco-responsible image! And it's not the only step in your supply chain that can change. 

Whether it's for procurement, packaging, delivery or transportation, more and more e-businesses are tending to put environmental issues ahead of financial ones. This is what we call being eco-responsible!

7. Having an efficient and ecological logistics project: dream or reality?

Green e-commerce logistics is not an unrealistic utopia. In fact, it is a concept that can be implemented in all e-commerce businesses, including yours. Whatever the structure and capabilities of your eco-responsible brand, you can act on your own scale.

From reducing returns to implementing transport software, packaging, and production, you can completely change your entire supply chain, or simply improve it ecologically, link by link.

When it comes to green supply chain management, there are solutions for everyone and at all heights. So, consider your options: which ones can you implement at YOUR level?

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