This is the era where eCommerce and consumerism are reigning at their peak. The insurmountable convenience of ordering any product within a few taps and getting doorstep delivery drives e-commerce sales higher.

Statistics suggest that 50% of the world’s online retail sales happen in Asia, with China leading the bandwagon. Needless to say, shipping and logistics companies have had to amp up their efforts in order to keep up with the rapidly rising demands.

However, it has led to a tremendous impact on the local economies and environment – particularly the environment.

It isn’t just the packaging that is leaving a bad carbon footprint in nature, but also the staggering increase in emissions. Through this blog, let’s understand how sustainable innovations can help eCommerce shipping and logistics businesses reduce their carbon footprint in the future.

Impact of eCommerce on The Environment

Try to imagine a large forest of 3 billion trees. Difficult, right? That is how many trees are cut and pulped every year to make the packaging cartons that people receive through their eCommerce shopping.

A GreenSense packaging survey done in 2020 revealed that online shopping generated 780 million pieces of packaging waste – in Hong Kong alone. This begs the question: is so much packaging is really necessary?

Packaging is only a part of the entire picture concerning the environmental impact of eCommerce logistics. In 2020, about 37% of the total greenhouse gas emissions were generated by eCommerce shipping and return logistics.

Even the future looks grim for the environment, according to research conducted by the World Economic Forum. The numbers highlight that by 2030, last-mile delivery is forecasted to grow by a staggering 78%. This will inevitably result in the growth of delivery vehicles by 36% in at least 100 cities around the globe.

This will result in an increase in carbon dioxide emissions by 6 million tonnes!

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Sustainable innovations in eCommerce logistics systems are not just a branding consideration anymore; they are a necessity.

On the bright side, the means, resources, and technology do exist today that can help curtail the negative impact of eCommerce logistics. Let’s take a look at sustainability innovations and practices towards a green initiative.

Best Practices to Implement for Sustainability in Last-Mile eCommerce

It is important to bear in mind that going green or implementing sustainability initiatives is an active, conscious practice. It isn’t a plug-and-play solution that will generate results overnight.

Logistics companies and eCommerce shippers – and consumers as well – should all come together and hold hands for the planet we call home.

1. Green Technology and Electric Vehicles

Last-mile logistics do not involve longer distances. This is something highly doable by using an electrically powered fleet of delivery vehicles. The technology that electric vehicles use has come to maturity, allowing people to freely adopt these solutions without any apprehensions.

Within city limits, there is a good provision to charge the electric vehicles as well, enabling emission-free logistics, at least for some part of the operation. Other green technologies include the use of CNG-based vehicles – however, since the fuel is derived from the earth, it may not be sustainable in the long term.

The chart below shows how switching to electric vehicles and innovative packaging solutions can result in a better future for logistics:

[Source]

2. Energy Efficiency and Alternative Fuels

Switching from fossil-based fuel to greener alternatives is also a point worth considering when making the switch to planet-healthy solutions. For example, running the fleets using hydrogen-based or biofuels can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically.

For example, powering electric vehicles using solar powered outlets can help create a circular ecosystem where the fuel is green as well, in addition to reduction in emissions.

The change and impact would be gradual, but it would help eCommerce logistics operations help facilitate a greener future for the coming generations.

3. Transparency in Supply Chain

Supply chain transparency is more of a recent trend that is encouraging shippers and logistics companies to adopt sustainable alternatives. The companies have taken responsibility to ensure that the products and all associated packaging materials sourced are transported in an environment-friendly manner.

Taking this initiative one step further, some logistics companies are documenting their sustainability practices, efforts, and their impact in solid numbers. “Sustainability reporting” helps foster trust amongst the stakeholders and create lasting partnerships that have a common cause.

4. Innovative Packaging Solutions and Circular Logistics

Although this practice is remotely concerned with logistics, innovating packaging solutions can help companies reduce their carbon footprint by leaps and bounds. Even simple steps like requesting packaging preservation for recycling purposes can create a circular logistics economy, promoting reuse and minimizing waste that reaches landfills.

A good example of an innovative packaging loop is incentivizing the return of undamaged packaging to the source. Giving the customers freebies or discount codes when they preserve packaging and send it back to the seller helps encourage reuse and recycling.

A Vision of The Future: Tech-Powered Sustainability Initiatives

Technology has empowered every single industry with innovative solutions that enhance the efficiency and performance of the entire ecosystem. Leveraging tech-powered implements – whether hardware, software or a combination of both – has the potential to transform the logistics industry in the future completely.

1. Drones

As discussed earlier, last-mile logistics do not involve traversing longer distances. The warehouses are often strategically located to service demarcated areas of a city. However, data shows that 40%-55% of the overall costs of delivery are taken up by the last mile and are often the most inefficient.

It is possible to deploy drones to take care of short-distance deliveries, helping reduce the carbon footprint that would otherwise occur from deploying fleet vehicles for the same. It will also reduce road congestion when the concerned delivery trucks are taken off the road.

2. Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous vehicles are already in existence and in use in several countries around the world. For the areas where infrastructure supports the use of autonomous vehicles, last-mile deliveries can be delegated to this technology, helping promote round-the-clock operation.

Autonomous vehicles also promote fuel efficiency by programming the controls for fuel-efficient driving practices. This helps bring emissions down to a minimum while also simultaneously reducing fuel requirements. This is an excellent way to control operating costs of the fleet.

3. Blockchain

Blockchain has tremendous potential in logistics, even though it was developed to service the cryptocurrency market. Blockchain-based networks can help enhance the visibility of the entire supply chain, providing actionable insight to optimize resource allocation.

For example, it is possible to identify route issues and recommend alternative routes while deploying delivery vehicles to optimize fuel use and delivery timelines. They can also be deployed to track the journey of a package from its source to the destination, providing the buyer with real-time updates about the package.

4. IoT

IoT, or the Internet of Things, is a true gift of intelligent technology that can revolutionize the green initiative of logistics companies. IoT helps connect hardware data with software to generate real-time performance and resource use information for the controller.

In the context of logistics, IoT devices can be connected to fleet vehicles to monitor aspects such as:

  • Stationery time spent at traffic lights or navigating congestion.
  • Speeding and gear-change data to understand environment-conscious driving habits.
  • In conjunction with AI-based software, IoT-enabled vehicles can communicate real-time information pertaining to delivery efficiency.
5. Software

Software like Warehouse Management Systems, compliance platforms for international shipping, inventory management systems, etc. can drastically reduce carbon footprint.

Cloud-based deployment of software reduces the requirement for electricity on-premises and also increases performance because of high server efficiency. This leads to a decrease in resource wastage and improved server use behaviors, enabling companies to reduce their carbon footprint.

Additionally, software and platforms like CustomsCity reduce the reliance on paper-based documentation and physical document transportation, which further helps reduce logistical complications.

CustomsCity: Efficient Logistics Management

For the eCommerce logistics industry to be future-ready, it is necessary to consider incorporating sustainability as a core driver of all operations, especially because a recent Deloitte report highlighted that customers today value sustainable packaging and waste reduction the most.

A good place to start is by optimizing the logistics chain using modern technologies like IoT-powered vehicle monitoring and electrically powered fleets. Additionally, implementing digital logistics platforms like CustomsCity enables smarter resource use while reducing turnaround times for backstage logistical operations.

CustomsCity is a customs compliance platform that enables digitization and automation of international shipping documentation. It reduces the shipper load by eliminating tedious paperwork by automating the submission of necessary forms and applications.

CustomsCity provides you with tremendous advantages, especially if you are a cross-border logistics company. Visit the website to know more.

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