How to Get Started With Green Logistics
E-commerce and online deliveries are at an all-time high, with sales increasing 20-fold since 2000, according to the EPA. Consumers embraced delivery for safety during the pandemic, and they’re finding that the convenience is keeping delivery just as popular today.
With this demand, consumers are also paying attention to the environmental impacts of delivery on climate change. Nearly half of Americans would be willing to pay higher delivery fees for online purchases if a company has initiatives to offset its carbon footprint. Another study found that delivering food products accounts for nearly 20 percent of total food-systems emissions. There clearly is a need for “green logistics.”
As retailers adopt more sustainable practices, it goes back to the saying “green is green.” The changes that make a business more efficient will simultaneously reduce carbon impact. We've seen a considerable increase in companies implementing green logistics by optimizing the end-to-end supply chain and incorporating sustainable practices into everyday business operations.
One of the large commercial delivery services is known for routing its vehicles to make as few left turns as possible. This improves safety, but it also reduces the time a truck is idling at the intersection waiting to make a turn. As management experts say, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” By analyzing the hang-ups that slow operations — and how to literally navigate around them — businesses of all sizes can have an immediate impact with green logistics.
Optimize the Last Mile
It’s important to have data to determine the impact of your delivery operations and find where to focus efforts and how to prioritize. Having a clear picture of fuel cost and emissions will help you shape your strategy and determine how you can improve the end-to-end efficiency of your operations. Utilizing a platform with last mile delivery route optimization will allow you to see where you can improve efficiencies and provide important metrics so you can formulate and track key performance indicators. These technology platforms are easy to get started with and may help you jump-start your green logistics journey.
Use Data to Drive Your Approach
While any effort is important, many companies start implementing green programs from the top down, instead of looking at the bottom-up data. A company may want to switch to electric vehicles (EVs), but moving from gas to electric requires a big capital investment. Start by analyzing which routes use the most fuel and which would work well for EVs. Then start with one or two vehicles at first. A light-duty vehicle that makes several stops in the same city could be an excellent candidate for an EV replacement, but a heavy-load intercity route may require a diesel truck for now.
Starting with data can create a road map for a company’s specific operations and drive informed decisions about which vehicles to replace or which congested roads to avoid to improve operations.
In the initial phase, it’s often helpful for companies to work with other sustainably minded businesses as they grow their green logistics programs. Learn from the partner’s expertise before building a big team to tackle the whole sustainability program. Look for fleet services that offer alternative fuel options or work with suppliers that offer reusable or recyclable packaging. Tracking a carbon footprint can be very complicated, so look to a third-party partner to help measure offset carbon emissions. Onfleet Offset is a program where delivery companies track delivery carbon emissions and balance this impact by supporting carbon-removal projects.
Meal kit delivery service Fresh Prep has been using Onfleet Offset for the past two years. Since all of its delivery mileage is tracked online, it eliminated the standard step of calculating miles driven, fuel used, and adding up a year’s worth of data to determine how many carbon credits to purchase. With the Offset program, Fresh Prep has been able to achieve net-zero emissions for its deliveries and was able to offset more than 623 metric tons of carbon in 2022 alone.
Track and Report on Company Progress
Learning how to operate more efficiently is important. Helping consumers know how you support the environment will help your business. And letting employees know how their efforts are paying off can improve morale and help provide the payoff for your efforts. Address all these goals by providing weekly or monthly reports, long before creating a year-end ESG report. Outline objectives and set clear goals that are measurable, and develop specific KPIs, data collection methods and reporting systems. Many manufacturers and consumer brands are also tracking their sustainability and asking for transportation data from carriers and retailers. A solid reporting infrastructure will make it much easier to share your progress with customers, suppliers and employees.
Looking to the future, adopting a green logistics approach is not just good for the environment, it’s good for business. These programs can take commitment, but even incremental changes over several years will add up and make a tremendous impact on climate change. Start by measuring current operations and analyzing where the waste is happening. Then create a phased approach to tackle the biggest problems today, and gradually improve overall efficiency and sustainability over time to have the biggest impact.
Katherine Lehman is director of digital marketing at last mile delivery management software company Onfleet.
Katherine Lehman is director of digital marketing at last mile delivery management software company Onfleet. Since its launch in 2015, Onfleet has grown to power millions of deliveries per month for thousands of businesses around the world including Total Wine & More, Sweetgreen, Kroger and many more.