How Couriers Can Reduce Their Carbon Footprint and Help Protect the Environment
Over 20 years ago, in 1994, to be precise, something very significant happened, the event would change the lives of people all around the world forever, and its impact on the global economy was to be of seismic proportions.
The event caused a chain reaction that continues to this day and will continue into the foreseeable future – what was the event? In 1994, the first secure online retail transaction was made. In the same year, Amazon was founded, and the following year eBay was launched. The way in which people shopped began to change rapidly, and this meant that retailers had to change too.
To capitalize on this change and to keep up with demand, the parcel delivery and courier sector also needed to change. It needed to expand, become more efficient and to innovate – how was this achieved, and what is the sector now doing to reduce the carbon footprint of an industry that relies so heavily on fleets of vehicles to transport parcels?
Integrating Digital Technology
Companies like TNT were the first to integrate digital technology, and GPS is perhaps the most significant example of how technology has helped couriers become faster, more efficient and thus reduce their carbon footprint.
The ability to find the best routes to use to avoid congestion and accidents that would slow them down and not getting lost has revolutionized the way couriers operate day to day.
In addition to GPS, the digitizing of delivery addresses, tracking and other logistical information has ensured that parcel delivery companies can meet the, forever growing, expectations of their customers.
But the story doesn’t end there; companies are constantly looking for new ways to be greener and more energy-efficient for their customers and clients.
Electric and Driverless Vehicles(Zero-Emission Transportation)
Electric vehicles have started to appear on our roads and motorways may prove to be an extremely effective way for the courier sector to reduce its carbon footprint drastically. There is no doubt that electric cars will drive down problems caused by the emissions from cars that use petrol or diesel, but many would argue that electric cars, if broadly adopted, will themselves cause environmental issues – the way we source lithium, being one of them.
Driverless cars are another avenue currently being explored as a way for couriers to become greener. Ocado, the online supermarket, for example, has recently tested a driverless vehicle in London and are hoping to be an early adopter of the technology.
The vehicle used in the trial was small, designed specifically to operate in a densely populated urban area where larger vehicles are not allowed. Optimizing pick-ups and deliveries by using an appropriately sized vehicle makes for super energy-efficient service.
Perhaps the most innovative method by which companies are looking to deliver packages and lower their carbon footprint is by the employment of drones and robots. Amazon is one of the companies leading the way here and who are soon hoping to be able to deliver items in 30 minutes or less. And Zipline, another American company, are already using drones in some African countries, Rwanda being one of them, to deliver medical supplies quickly and safely.
When it comes to “the last mile” delivery, however, little is more eco-friendly than pedal power, and some companies are looking to bicycles for more sustainability. Take a company like Deliveroo that makes all its deliveries to customers using bikes and pedal power. This, in turn, produces zero emissions and impact on the environment.
Green Distribution Centres
Energy-efficient distribution centers can play a very important role in making the parcel delivery and courier sector more environmentally friendly.
Many centers need to be heated or cooled or be able to control the humidity in order to keep the items housed there in tip-top condition. Buildings need to be designed and constructed in a way that optimizes the use of energy if they are to be green.
Indoor loading bays that stop cold weather from entering well-insulated buildings and solar panels are good examples of how the shell of the building can lower and keep down its carbon footprint.
In addition to the shell of the building being energy efficient, things like lighting need to be considered; lighting that can be programmed to come on and switch off when needed will save energy and money. You can always make use of energy-saving bulbs, which save greatly and cut down the use of power and energy wasted through unnecessary use.
Operations inside the center can be made more efficient with ibot systems that will automate the storing and picking of boxes and parcels. When done this way, the process is fast, accurate and more sustainable than, for example, using forklift trucks and manual labor.
Some companies are making “significant investments” to reduce their carbon footprint. Companies like Yodel, DPD, Hermes deliver around millions of parcels each year, and in its peak period, some even deliver around a million a day. They have invested in technology to calculate the most efficient routes and evaluate their drivers’ driving style to further reduce our carbon footprint.
Route optimization is an important first step on the road towards creating greener delivery operations. The less mileage your drivers consume on the road, the lower your contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. With effective route optimization, drivers reach more stops per run while covering fewer miles when compared to a less-than-optimal route.
They have been working with cycle couriers in a number of towns for many years and are introducing electric to their fleet like electric vans while trialing compressed natural gas-powered trucks for changing the vehicles they use in the future or using biomethane fuel to power their vehicles.
Courier companies require different buildings such as head offices, warehouses and call centers. All of these will need to use electricity, heating, running water and other types of energy sources. Many of these courier companies are aware of the potential harm buildings can cause to the environment.
With advancements in technology and using a little common sense, courier companies can put things in place to reduce the carbon footprint left by their buildings. These companies can dramatically decrease negative impacts on the environment using intelligent heating, cooling and lighting systems and making use of renewable energies such as solar power.
With planned deliveries, time is on your side. Dispatchers can ensure ahead of time that all trucks or other modes of transportation are filled to capacity and use route optimization to make sure that drivers do as few runs as possible.If dispatchers and drivers can communicate during the run, and the dispatcher has good visibility into returns, then the same delivery trucks can also perform returns while they’re on a delivery run. This saves time and money for both the customer and the company – and it’s a great customer experience as well.
There are ways to keep on-demand delivery eco-friendly by making local deliveries by bike or on foot. Automated batching tools can ensure that a single run can include multiple orders going to the same area, even if they are ordered separately and even if they are placed at different times. This ensures that you don’t deliver twice to the same area around the same time and saves the company money as well as time (and gas) spent on the road.
Uber Eats do this by providing incentives to add orders to existing ones offering a discount. This incentivized batching reduces delivery fees for the delivery provider, also the order cost and waiting time for the customer.
Delivery from the Store (Using in-store Inventory)
If companies have inventory visibility and a healthy integration between inventory data and order data, they can offer delivery directly from a local store. In a recent study, Rakuten Intelligence reports that the average domestic package travels over 1,000 miles before arriving at its destination. This is astonishing when you consider that the same item may be available at a retail location just a few miles away from the customer.
‘Hyper-local’ deliveries from local stores not only drastically reduce the carbon footprint per order but also help by getting rid of inventory with a short shelf life. Grocery chains and fashion retail chains in particular, can increase their revenue using the deliver-from-store model.
In combination with bike couriers and delivery providers on foot, hyper-local deliveries can save hundreds of miles of vehicle-related expenses while offering brands a way to get a competitive edge in their market.
A Little Help from Friends
Encouraging their customers to help fight the battle for sustainability is another initiative that the parcel delivery and courier sector have put into action and use.
They are increasingly encouraging the use of recyclable packaging by retailers, suppliers and private sellers using websites like eBay to sell items.
Some companies also give customers the opportunity to donate to a charity when they use their services – for a slightly increased fee. These and other donations made from company profits are a way of engaging in carbon offsetting.
Carbon offsetting, in this way, refers to the process of matching some of the negative consequences of a company’s operations with positive activities, forestation projects being a good example.
The parcel delivery and courier sector have grown to be an extraordinarily large and complex industry, and this is mainly due to the explosion of online eCommerce. The profits to be made are massive; however, so is the responsibility to act in a manner that is sustainable and more energy-efficient.
The sector has made great progress in this area but needs to continue to invest in the research and development of technology that will allow for enduring sustainability, efficiency and expedition.