Creating a More Sustainable Future for E-Commerce Delivery
The way we shop has changed dramatically over the past few years. E-commerce acceleration has given consumers endless options for shopping and delivery. While this shift to a new shop-from-anywhere economy has made our lives more convenient, it has come at an environmental cost that consumers are increasingly aware of.
In fact, a recent consumer survey revealed that 66 percent of consumers believe it’s important for retailers to improve sustainability efforts. However, consumers are unsure exactly what changes need to be made to create a more sustainable shopping environment. They're unsure whether in-store or online shopping is more sustainable, and they're uncertain about the environmental impact of increased online shopping over the past three years.
First Stop: The Final Mile
The first place brands and retailers can look to build a more sustainable path forward for e-commerce is final mile delivery. Consumers may not have fully considered the environmental impacts of final mile delivery because they're unaware of the carbon-intensive process of e-commerce fulfillment.
However, we know that the World Economic Forum predicts that as e-commerce demand continues to grow, there will be an increase in delivery vehicles in inner cities of 36 percent by 2030. Similarly, Accenture predicts a 32 percent increase in carbon emissions from urban delivery vehicles by 2030. This is where the supply chain industry can make a difference by mitigating the effects of final mile delivery through two simple means.
The first is to reduce time in transit (TNT) on final mile deliveries by forward-stocking inventory as close to end customers as possible. Forward-stocking inventory eliminates long-zone shipments and enables merchants to meet consumer expectations for fast shipping via two-day ground as opposed to air, which emits six times the carbon of a ground shipment. The second is carbon offsetting. Offsetting carbon emissions by purchasing carbon credits through a reputable provider enables companies to use their buying power to fund vital nature preservation projects.
While these steps can help reduce the environmental impact of final mile delivery, retailers must also be responsible for guiding consumers to more sustainable choices. Consumers want to shop more sustainably, but they don’t know where to find sustainable shipping options if retailers don't advertise them. A survey revealed that 42 percent of consumers rarely or never see sustainable shipping options advertised. Retailers, therefore, must reduce TNT, offset emissions, and guide consumers to more sustainable choices by advertising sustainable practices.
The Answer is Innovation
It’s heartening to see the growing concern among consumers and the increased investment in hybrid cars, alternative fuel sources, sustainable foods, and more. However, there's still much work to be done. Climate change and air pollution are immediate threats to our health and wellbeing, and the supply chain industry must take action to mitigate their impact.
The supply chain has innovated over the last several years to meet the demands of digital sales channels and growing consumer expectations. That’s why I have confidence that supply chain professionals can drive the next and most important wave of innovation — creating a sustainable path forward that not only meets the needs of consumers but the needs of our planet.
It’s clear that sustainability must be the next supply chain innovation. The supply chain industry can make a difference by mitigating the effects of final mile delivery through strategic inventory distribution and carbon offsetting. Retailers must also guide consumers to more sustainable choices by advertising sustainable practices. The time to act is now; together we can create a more sustainable future.
Chris Weathers is the chief of staff at Ware2Go, a UPS company, which provides on-demand fulfillment and warehousing so merchants can get closer to their customers and provide one- to two-day shipping.
Related story: Sustainability in Shipping
Chris, a Fort Lauderdale, FL native, has a Bachelors of Arts in Economics from Morehouse College. He graduated on the Dean's list, and with Latin Honors, Magna Cum Laude. At the start of his career, Chris worked at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey as an equity research associate and also spent a couple of years in the strategy group to assist with the SunTrust / BB&T merger. He then transitioned to a role in Venture Capital where he assisted with fund of fund and direct investing. Chris now works at Ware2Go as the Chief of Staff to the CEO where he leads Strategic Initiatives to simplify the end-to-end supply chain to enable merchants of all sizes to compete and win.