How Carbon Neutral Delivery is Greening Online Shopping
Fast-growing e-commerce brands understand only too well that "going green" is a thorny ambition. Online shopping is booming with demand accelerated by COVID-19, but offering fast international delivery using air freight will have an impact on the planet we’re all trying to protect. A commitment to carbon neutrality in the supply chain is therefore an attractive proposition, and I believe, a powerful medium-term fix for our industry.
At Asendia we’re frequently asked by retailers to put a figure on the carbon impact of their parcels, and to provide eco-delivery options to appease growing consumer concerns about climate change. It’s now an expectation that parcel shipping partners will provide such data, and the proactive ones are stepping up to the challenge.
There’s currently no way to eliminate carbon emissions from e-commerce shipping, as most of the transportation industry still relies on fossil fuels. But with offsetting a more ethical way of doing business becomes possible. Asendia’s carbon offsetting projects mean that today all shipments carried out on behalf of retailers are 100 percent carbon-neutral.
Consumers Are Ready for Change
Importantly, there's evidence that giving shoppers information about the environmental impact of their delivery will help them choose lower-impact shipping options. A survey in China last year of Taobao website users found that out of 188 survey respondents, slightly more than half (55 percent) were willing to compromise the speed of international delivery for a less carbon-intensive alternative.
Similarly, 2021 research from the International Post Corporation (IPC) found 44 percent of online shoppers have changed their purchasing behavior to be more sustainable. Furthermore, a recent survey of 500 U.S. consumers by Sifted found that 91 percent want an "eco-friendly shipping" option at checkout.
Clearly, carbon labelling for e-commerce shipping options could help retailers meet their carbon reduction goals, and improve their brand reputation, while minimizing environmental damage. Presenting delivery as 100 percent carbon neutral is bound to impress.
Focus on Longer Term Green Delivery Goals, Too
However, it’s important to recognize that offsetting is just the beginning of our journey. Businesses need to have a detailed knowledge of their carbon footprint and find solutions to reduce CO2 in the long term.
First must come data transparency, and fathoming the carbon measurement of a parcel is quite complex. At Asendia we're developing tools to help our retail clients calculate CO2 emissions based on the shipment’s weight, distance travelled from warehouse to final address, and modes of transport used. Our goal is to have the calculation available per customer for all their emissions.
As innovations filter through, including eco packaging, electric- and hydrogen-powered vehicles, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), and artificial intelligence (AI)-driven efficiencies in planning and forecasting, the carbon impact of parcels will hopefully drop further and further.
Time and effort must go into educating consumers so that they can make informed decisions. One question is whether shoppers would be willing to pay a premium for carbon neutral or other kinds of green delivery services. Some retailers are toying with charging slightly more or offering incentives like loyalty points for choosing the slower, low-carbon shipping service.
What’s certain is that going green with e-commerce delivery is non-negotiable. Possibly legislation will be passed in the next couple of years, forcing retailers to provide full transparency regarding supply chain emissions, alongside waste and energy use metrics.
Therefore, to prepare for potential legal changes, and maintain brand loyalty, it’s well worth listening to what customers value and giving them verified eco-delivery options to choose from. At this stage of the game, I’m convinced carbon neutral parcel shipping is a strategically smart and very worthwhile commitment.
Barbara Schielke is the chief HR and CSR officer for Asendia, a leader in international e-commerce and mail, delivering packages, parcels and documents to more than 200 destinations.