4 ways to make your online delivery more sustainable

August 11, 2020
StoreShippers - Nienke van Meekeren
August 11, 2020
StoreShippers - Nienke van Meekeren

Global ecommerce is growing rapidly with no indication of slowing down. In the Netherlands alone, 576 million packages were transported last year. But as ecommerce grows, so does its environmental impact. Vans drive back and forth to the homes of consumers, while airplanes and trucks supply the distribution centres. These increasing transport movements are clogging roads, polluting the air and are accompanied by high carbon emissions. And we haven’t even mentioned the polluting and excessive material that is often used to pack the products. In order to satisfy consumers ever-rising desire to buy products online and on-demand without burdening the environment, effective intervention taken by both cities and companies is quickly needed. In this blog piece we provide you with 4 ways to make your online delivery more sustainable.


In the Netherlands alone, 576 million packages were transported last year

Use environmentally friendly modes of transport

To move one step closer to carbon neutral delivery, it is important to exchange your gas-dependent trucks, vans and cars for green delivery vehicles such as electric and hydrogen vehicles, cargo bikes and push bikes. Other green delivery vehicles that are currently being experimented with are autonomous delivery robots, delivery drones, vehicles with solar panels. For longer distances, it also helps to avoid air transport as much as possible by transporting items by land and preferably even by sea. Switching to more sustainable modes of transportation reduces congestion, noise and air pollution. Moreover, by working efficiently, this doesn’t even have to be at the expense of the delivery speed.

Use sustainable packaging 

Sustainable packaging plays an important role in making the delivery of goods more environmentally friendly. Sturdy packaging is of course necessary to protect products properly, but those packaging must subsequently leave the smallest possible impact on the environment. Two elements are important in making packaging materials more sustainable: 

  1. Adjust the size of the package to the product

According to measurements from the VIL, ecommerce packages are on average 63 percent full. The remaining space consists of air. To avoid air being transported, you can use a more compact packaging that requires less filling material. More compact packaging ensures that savings are made on loading volume in delivery vehicles. This allows more packages to be sent in one vehicle, which reduces the number of transport movements and reduces carbon emissions.

  1. Use reusable packaging

As a result of the strong increase in the number of ecommerce orders, large quantities of cardboard boxes and plastic packaging accumulate in the homes of consumers. To tackle this problem, you can invest in the realization of reusable packaging. In that case, the consumer returns the package to the delivery person or ecommerce company after delivery, so that it can be used for the next order.

Optimize your delivery routes 

Efficient route planning is a good way to reduce the impact of ecommerce deliveries on the environment. After all, fewer kilometres and less time on the road means less carbon emissions. You want to deliver as many packages as possible in one run, while the number of kilometres travelled by the delivery person is as low as possible. Besides the fact that optimizing your delivery route is a great way to make your delivery more sustainable, it also saves you on fuel costs.

Implement a ship-from-store fulfilment strategy 

Another way to make your online delivery more sustainable is to ship products from stores, close to the majority of consumers. Ship-from-store is a fulfilment process where retailers use stock from their brick-and-mortar store estate to fulfil (online) orders. Instead of using centralized distribution centres, the physical store is used as a small distribution centre, to support the digital platform. Fulfilling orders this way turns the store into a virtual hub and ensures that orders are sent smoothly and quickly to the consumer. A ship-from-store fulfilment strategy makes online delivery more sustainable in the following ways:

  1. Reduction in cargo load

Products can travel in bulk to the store before they are packed for delivery to the final consumer, while parcels travel thousands or at least hundreds of miles when shipped from a distribution centre. With the latter method, a lot of air is transported, so that fewer products can be transported in one load. Ship-from-store transports cargo in a more efficient way, which reduces transport movements. Our own research shows that when products can travel in bulk to the store before they are packed for delivery to the consumer, a factor five in volumetric is saved. Carbon emissions are reduced as a result, which in turn is positive for the environment.

  1. More environmentally-friendly modes of transport

Because products are sourced from a store and delivered to consumers in the same city, it is not needed to use fast and polluting transport means like planes and/or vans. Products can travel the longest part in the supply chain by boat, train, and truck to supply stores, which have a significant lower impact on carbon emission than planes and vans.

  1. Shorter last-mile

In traditional ecommerce logistics, parcels travel hundreds, or at least tens, of miles before they are delivered to the end consumer. With ship-from-store, on the other hand, this can be reduced till only a few miles. Because ship-from-store introduces a different logistics model than traditional ecommerce logistics, its impact on the environment not only positively influences the last-mile, but also the entire supply chain.

Our opinion
We at StoreShippers believe that the future of ecommerce logistics depends on its sustainability and efficiency. Environmentally friendly delivery doesn’t have to be costly and at the expense of the delivery speed. On the contrary, working in an environmentally-oriented way often goes hand-in-hand with efficient delivery activities. It is our mission to build a global sustainable ship-from-store network to connect global online visibility with local offline presence.

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Blog by: Nienke van Meekeren
Sources used: Dista, World Economic Forum, Logistiek.nl 
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