Sustainable ecommerce: the role of policy makers

May 27, 2020
StoreShippers - Nienke van Meekeren
May 27, 2020
StoreShippers - Nienke van Meekeren

Sustainability is a hot topic in ecommerce and ecommerce logistics, and it is expected that the importance of this theme will only increase over the years. The sector has already made great strides in this area, but there is still much to be gained. To reduce the impact on the environment, various parties in the sector are considering and implementing sustainable processes. Consumers are willing to make concessions and companies are devising innovative solutions to reduce their ecological footprint. In addition, policy makers have a key role to play in making the ecommerce sector as a whole more sustainable. Let’s have a look at the role of this latter party in making the sector more sustainable.

60% of consumers are even willing to pay extra for sustainable delivery methods

Consumers’ opinion
Several studies show that consumers are willing to make concessions if this means that they do less harm to the environment. For example, research by B2C Europe shows that 75% of consumers would wait longer for parcels if they knew that opting for a shorter delivery period resulted in more air pollution and congestion. 60% of consumers are even willing to pay extra for sustainable delivery methods. In addition, research by Descartes shows that 65% of Dutch consumers would opt for an alternative product if they knew that the impact of the delivery process on the environment is large. However, consumers are not always aware of the exact consequences of their ecommerce purchases and delivery choices. Therefore, they believe that the greatest responsibility for making the ecommerce sector more sustainable lies with companies and policy makers.

The role of policy makers
Policy makers have traditionally played a dominant role in making society more sustainable. They do this by determining guidelines that sectors or countries must adhere to. An example of this is the target set by the European Parliament to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. This reflects in the actions of companies in the ecommerce sector. Laws and regulations are also gaining influence at national, regional and local scale levels. For example, policy makers conclude agreements, facilitate processes necessary for sustainable development, and impose quotas and environmental zones.

Below we have set out 4 ways in which policy makers play or can play a role in making the ecommerce sector more sustainable.

  1. The implementation of a kilometre charge for trucks and vans

One way in which policy makers can make the ecommerce sector more sustainable is by introducing a kilometre charge for polluting delivery vehicles. In several countries, a kilometre charge with tariff differentiation for trucks has already been introduced and this could be extended to other delivery vehicles such as vans. In this way, delivery companies must respond smartly to the higher transport costs that arise from the kilometre charge. This forces delivery companies to improve the load factor of the van, bundle volumes and optimize routes. Moreover, it stimulates companies to switch to green delivery vehicles. 

  1. The introduction of zero emission zones

Several municipalities have implemented zero emission zones or will implement them in the near future. For example, medium-sized zero emission zones for urban logistics will be established in 30 to 40 Dutch cities by 2025. The introduction of these zero emission zones stimulates the use of environmentally friendly delivery vehicles, reduces congestion in cities and increases the liveability of cities.

  1. Facilitating infrastructure

In order to promote sustainable transport within the sector, it is important that the infrastructure in and around cities is in line with this. Cities must therefore provide the necessary infrastructure for electric small vehicles and cargo bikes. These means of transport need enough space to manoeuvre and drive safely. In addition, policy makers can ensure that bicycle streets are developed and the maximum speed in cities is reduced.

  1. Developing a quality mark

Finally, policy makers can collaborate with companies in the sector or provide grants to implement a quality mark that indicates whether a product is part of a sustainable (logistics) process. Descartes’ research shows that 63% of Dutch consumers would like this. Such a quality mark can be a means of providing consumers with insight. This allows them to consciously choose which product to buy and from which company.

Both companies and policy makers play a key role in making the ecommerce sector more sustainable. Companies can take their responsibility by being transparent about where (parts of) products come from and how they are transported, by clearly indicating to the consumer what the impact of the different delivery methods they offer is on the environment, and by using sustainable delivery vehicles.

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Blog by: Nienke van Meekeren
Sources used: B2C Europe, CustomerTalk, De Laatste Meter, CRB
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