Dan Nevin, general manager with Inmar Post-Purchase Solutions, discusses how retail delivery services are coping with the impact of growing e-commerce volumes on greenhouse gas emissions.
Parcel and postal carriers are making progress in reducing greenhouse gases, Nevin says, even as e-commerce volumes continue to grow. A recent study by Pitney Bowes forecasted nearly 300 billion parcels to be delivered annually by 2026, and the environmental impact of that activity will be devastating if it isn’t accompanied by efforts to make last-mile delivery more sustainable.
Nevin sees strong awareness among retailers and deliverers in initiatives meant to reduce carbon emissions. Electric vehicles are among the most popular development to achieve that end, but it will take about 10 years before we see a “fundamental shift” whereby such technology is the norm in commercial deliveries, he says.
In the meantime, delivery services need to pursue short-term strategies for improving sustainability. Chief among them is the concept of the pickup and drop-off (PUDO) network, which establishes common points for consumers to acquire or return items ordered online. Progress toward that method is greater outside the U.S., especially in the Nordic countries, the UK and Poland. In the case of the last, retailers are incentivizing consumers to use a PUDO by making it the primary delivery option at checkout. It’s being presented to consumers as the most cost-effective, efficient and green option, Nevin says, heading off the default choice of direct home delivery.
The U.S. lags countries that are at the forefront of last-mile sustainability, in part because rival retailers are making separate arrangements with carriers, which “create customer conflict” and carbon-spewing redundancies by delivery fleets. It might even increase the number of miles needed to service customers, Nevin says, at a time when the crucial goal is to reduce them.
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