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How Can The eCommerce Industry Reduce Emissions?

Last year, online shopping grew by 57 per cent, resulting in a significant increase in delivery vehicles on roads. In fact, Australia’s transport sector is responsible for nearly a fifth of the country’s carbon emissions. Now, new research reveals that 68 per cent of Australians would choose lower-carbon-emitting parcel delivery methods, an emerging consumer preference that retailers and carriers will need to meet. Ahead of Earth Day (22 April), the CEO of a leading parcel collection service offers timely tactics for retailers and carriers to reduce their carbon footprint.

The new finding was derived from a new survey of an independent panel of 1005 Australians commissioned by leading agnostic parcel collection network, Hubbed (hubbed.com). When Hubbed analysed preferences for low-carbon delivery methods across the States, it found Victorians seem to be more environmentally conscious shoppers. Seventy-three (73) per cent of Victorians would choose a delivery method if it would reduce carbon emissions, compared with 68 per cent of South Australians and 59 per cent of Queenslanders. The younger the shopper, the more environmentally conscious, too: 74 per cent of 18-30-year-olds would choose a low-carbon delivery method, compared with 61 per cent of over-50s.

Hubbed also found that 69 per cent of Australians would like retailers to label delivery methods with low emissions as ‘low carbon’ on their checkout pages to help them choose the most carbon-friendly option when shopping online. The survey revealed that a larger proportion of younger shoppers would prefer ‘low carbon’ labelling than older shoppers: 79 per cent of 18-30-year-olds, compared with 59 per cent of over-50s.

David McLean, Founder and CEO of Hubbed, says: “The eCommerce boom we’ve seen over the last 12 months has delivered unprecedented growth in the industry. In fact, we can expect to see more than 2 billion people globally shopping online this year. Our findings show that Australians are acutely aware of the impact online shopping can have on the environment and are open to shifting their behaviours as a result. A third of consumers also care more about the sustainability of a delivery over the cost, further suggesting sustainable options are becoming increasingly important. This presents a growing challenge for carriers and retailers to ensure they have an environmental strategy in place to manage increased parcel volumes, while reducing their impact on the planet.”

David shares five tactics to help retailers and carriers be more sustainable and reduce their carbon emissions, ahead of Earth Day. 

  1. Offer delivery methods that reduce the number of vehicles on the road. Couriers make multiple trips a day to individual addresses, which can extend parcel delivery routes and increase vehicles on the roads, and thereby emissions. Missed deliveries are often returned to depots, extending delivery routes even further. David advises online retailers to consider offering alternative delivery choices at checkout, such as delivery to collection points. In this way, couriers can deliver multiple parcels to one location, which are often local stores, including petrol stations, convenience stores, and other independent retail outlets. This can help couriers save on petrol costs and reduce congestion and carbon emissions. There is growing evidence to support this, with recent data revealing that carriers who use collection points can reduce emissions by 0.47kgC02e per kilometre.
  1. Bring parcels closer to customers. With more than half of the global population currently living in cities, [6] David suggests retailers and carriers consider leveraging ‘micro-fulfilment centres’ in metropolitan areas. This can shorten the distance between customers and their online orders, thereby speeding up delivery times and reducing emissions in the process. Retailers with bricks and mortar locations can also ship orders directly to customers from local stores, which are often closely situated to customers, and make use of existing inventory. 
  1. Educate consumers about the impact of certain delivery choices. David has seen an increase in consumers selecting same-day and next-day delivery options. While they can be convenient for consumers, they also negatively impact the environment. He says shorter time frames put pressure on carriers to deliver orders quickly, forcing drivers to start delivery runs with vehicles that aren’t at full capacity and increasing their trips to depots to collect more orders. David suggests retailers inform customers of the impact of choosing such options during the checkout process. He says, “Our survey shows most Australians want low carbon delivery options to be labelled at checkout, so retailers would be wise to ensure consumers are also educated around methods that can harm the environment.”
  1. Partner with environmentally conscious carriers. The good news is that some carriers are already making changes to minimise their environmental impact. David advises retailers to seek out carriers that are already beginning to reduce their carbon emissions. Some carriers have committed to becoming carbon neutral, while others have started using electric vehicles across their fleets. In fact, electric vehicles powered from renewable sources produce just 6g of carbon dioxide per kilometre, compared with the 184g per kilometre produced by the average new car.[7]
  1. Consider sustainable packaging options. David says retailers would be wise to seek out environmentally friendly packaging options. He advises retailers to use recycled or low-carbon packing materials, satchels and boxes. Such options could help attract and retain customers, who may feel confident shopping from retailers that are actively reducing their impact on the environment.
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