The e-commerce sector is evolving rapidly, with an increase of 13.4% in the number of orders in 2018 according to Sendcloud. As a result, the delivery of goods is responsible for more than 30% of greenhouse gas emissions each year.
More and more e-merchants and supply chain managers are becoming aware of this problem and are finding alternative solutions to reduce their environmental impact. In this article we will look at the best solutions to move from ultra-polluting to totally green transport!
As an e-commerce brand, you organize deliveries on a daily basis. Whether by river, air or land, these deliveries have a cost: in addition of being expensive, they are also environmentally unfriendly. More than ⅔ French people order regularly on the internet, and while the number of orders is constantly increasing, the Fevad says that the average basket size is falling.
In other words, this does not mean that the French consumers order less than usual. They order in smaller quantities and more frequently. And who says more orders, says more round trips of goods, often by truck. Hello carbon footprint!
In France, more and more innovative start-ups and large companies are developing applications, techniques and vehicles to enable you to continue to deliver your goods while going green.
What are these alternative and innovative solutions? From reverse logistics to electric drones: we explain everything.
While waterways and railways remain the fastest and cheapest transport solutions for e-commerce goods, they are not necessarily the most practical. Not all cities in France are well served to ensure a high level of customer service.
That is why transporters started to think about changing deliveries by road completely. For example, the transport company Marc Schubel Transport & Logistique has found two solutions to reduce the environmental impact of its trucks:
You'll probably tell me that this is not something you can implement at your level, and you're right: there are other elements of transport on which you can have an impact.
One of the solutions is from the very beginning of the logistics chain, try to reduce packaging by trying to adapt it to the product it contains. If there is less packaging, the product fits in less space and a truck can carry more products for the same environmental footprint!
Following the same logic, transport vehicles are gradually evolving. While more than 80% of them used to be diesel-powered a few years ago, the reality today is quite different. More and more road transport vehicles are NGV (Natural Gas for Vehicles) trucks or simply electric.
This makes it possible to significantly reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, whether for short or long distances. More and more carriers are offering electric options. For example, the La Poste group uses the largest electrical vehicle fleet in the world!
The last-mile theory explains that during the delivery of goods to a customer, the last stage (i.e. the last few kilometers leading to the customer's home) is the most polluting. Since this part is personalized to each customer, it often occurs that carriers travel with an nearly empty vehicle. So the ratio between the quantity of goods delivered and the energy spent is really not balanced.
Some carriers change their approach and become more responsible with greener solutions to deliver your packages. That being said, the express delivery option prevents the application of these new green solutions. When your customers select express delivery, the carrier is not waiting to have a lot of parcels to deliver. The priority is no longer on optimizing delivery rounds but ensuring that they are delivered as quickly as possible. Over longer distances, the carrier will use the airplane to deliver the packages, with an even more significant impact on the environment.
As the express delivery is highly appreciated by customers, the idea is not necessarily to remove it completely from the options. Make sure, as a first step, to inform your customers about the environmental impact of this option through a newsletter, for example. Show to your customers that waiting 1 or 2 more days is not only better for the planet, but also good for their wallet!
The cargo bike is another alternative to overcome the last-mile. A bicycle (electric or mechanical) is far less polluting than a car, or any other motor vehicle. For this reason, transporters are starting to develop a whole system of bicycles in France's largest cities.
Even though this solution requires sporting skills for delivery people, it allows goods to be delivered more efficiently and ecologically, regardless the density of traffic. They have a small trailer in which they place parcels: simple, efficient and environmentally friendly!
This solution is ideal for cities with heavy road traffic: it allows faster deliveries. And in addition to reducing pollution, drivers have no problem parking!
Pick-up points deliveries are increasingly used. They reduce the number of journeys: carriers no longer waste time dropping off each order at separate addresses, but concentrate the goods at pick-up points. Owners only have to pick them up when they have the opportunity to do so.
According to Sendcloud, the use of pick-up only benefits the environment if the customer has less than 6.7 km to get the goods. Beyond this distance, customers tend to use their own vehicles, which does not make the pick-up point delivery option any less polluting. A home delivery is then preferable, and so take advantage of the delivery drivers' tours and their electric vehicles!
Pick-up points are scattered all over the major cities, so there are good chances that your customers will have one close to their homes. The only downside: the opening hours. Pick-up points often open at traditional hours: 10am-7pm, which sometimes makes it difficult for e-buyers to find the time to stop by.
But there is a solution to every problem! To avoid this kind of situation, the deposit system is more and more popular. It takes the form of lockers accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All your customers need is the code that has been sent to them to open the corresponding locker. And that's it! In France, Amazon and La Poste use this solution to deliver their parcels.
A new feature for 2019: a delivery warehouse boat has been set up in Paris! Every day, the employees on board prepare the boxes and deliver them to three specific delivery points.
Excellent for ecology, but also for speed! The barge can store many parcels, and its fluvial circulation (in addition to being less polluting) allows it not to be slowed down by the Parisian traffic. For the moment, Le Monde states that only Lyreco and Ikea are delivered by the Fludis barge: but the potential for development is enormous!
This pro-ecological alternative is not for now. It is a project for the years to come: the perfect compromise between home delivery and respect for the environment.
This rather far-fetched idea involves the use of fully electric drones to deliver small packages (weighing less than 3kg) to the customer's doorstep. With this technology, there's no risk of getting stuck in traffic jams!
Many alternatives already exist today, to enable you to develop completely green logistics. Combining customer satisfaction and respect for the environment is not unattainable.
Even if some ideas are still at the project stage, those that are already in place are easily achievable. Whatever the nature of your e-commerce, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is far from being too complicated.