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Every day, millions of packages are delivered, thanks to the massive expansion of e-commerce—and this is just the beginning.

In fact, by 2026, 24% of retail purchases are expected to take place online and most customers will choose convenient and faster delivery. 

But at what cost to the environment?

Convenient and faster delivery means more delivery vehicles, delivery traffic, and packaging waste. 

This would lead to an increase in pollution, especially carbon dioxide emissions from delivery vehicles.

However, in recent times, consumers are awakening to the reality of the risk that convenience poses to the environment and are making better delivery choices.

Our own research shows that 54% of consumers expect online retailers to offer a green delivery method in 2022. This means that if you’re looking to keep up the game in e-commerce, sustainable delivery is your best bet.

What is Sustainable Delivery? 

Sustainable delivery is any means of transportation that ensures that customers receive their goods from vendors using methods that are friendly to the environment.

Sustainable delivery in e-commerce is also known as green delivery, so don’t get worried if you see them used interchangeably.

Contrary to popular opinion, sustainable delivery isn’t restricted to shipping goods with the lowest possible environmental impact. 

It’s more than that.

It includes the whole distribution process; storage, order, processing and picking, packaging, improved vehicle delivery, and returns.

When it comes to sustainable delivery, nothing is left out. Every process is optimized to contribute less pollution to the environment.

Sustainable delivery: Dutch carrier Cycloon

6 Sustainable Delivery Methods For Your E-commerce Business

Sustainable delivery looks daunting at first because it requires you to change what you’ve been comfortable with.

You’re probably asking, “where do I start?”

That’s why we’re here!

In this section, we will walk you through methods you can explore on your journey to sustainable delivery. These methods will ensure you have a soft landing while you pivot to sustainable delivery.

1 Opt For Eco-friendly Packaging Materials 

In the year 2020, paper and plastic contributed to 41.2% and 19.5% of the waste in Europe and have increased over time.

We understand that your product packaging is a reflection of your branding and protects the products during delivery. 

Unfortunately, the environment is harmed by the effect of this packaging and it is often disposed of immediately after the package arrives.

Packing peanuts, water-soluble packaging, and compostable mailer bags are biodegradable options you can explore.

Arka is a packaging company that helps you design your box online, offers eco-friendly packaging, and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

PackFactory comes to your rescue when you run out of creative juice. It has a custom template that helps you draw inspiration for your packaging and they have a variety of packaging materials you can explore.

Sustainably delivery: packaging tips

2 Reduce Returns 

Regardless of how good your products are, you’d have to deal with returns more times than you can imagine.

Environmental harm will continue to rise if the amount of returns continue to increase, with more and more delivery vehicles on the move.

Here are a few tips to reduce/returns

  • Don’t get a return. This sounds weird but it’s the fact. The best way to reduce returns is to ensure your customers get what they want at first. Invest in quality materials, take orders accurately, and ensure the products arrive in good condition.
  • Still, on ensuring that your customers get the best quality, you can incorporate AI. AI studies customer behavior and reduces returns by offering recommendations for products like clothing. 
  • Label-less returns. This is a method where your customers only need to scan a QR code to process their returns. This helps you reduce the number of papers printed in the process and hence the carbon footprint

3 Optimize packaging

The feeling of unboxing your package is thrilling, however, having to cut through multiple foil layers to reach the package kills the thrill.

61% of online shoppers think that too much packaging is used for goods. Most e-commerce stores are notorious for this. It also looks unprofessional and is wasteful for your business.

Understandably, most businesses do this to keep their goods safe but sometimes, these products are better off without boxes.

The key thing is to find a balance. Ensure that your product has enough packaging to be safe while ensuring that the packaging isn’t a problem.

Here’s how you can optimize packaging;

  • Before boxing up your goods, ensure it is absolutely necessary for the safety of the goods.
  • Pack and box up your goods with the right size of boxes, this way small sized goods will not take up more space than they should.
  • Use the right packaging material based on the nature of the product. Products like glass require extra materials to secure them.
  • Incorporate warehouse management software. This software provides the most efficient packaging method based on the product and dimensions of your packaging material.

Sustainable delivery: optimizing packaging

4 Sustainable last-mile delivery

As the name implies, last-mile delivery is the final lap of delivery from the transportation hub to residents or retail stores.

Customers often want faster, and cheaper delivery. It’s a dicey situation because last-mile deliveries are always the longest and most challenging.

Last-mile delivery contributes the most pollution to the environment through delivery vehicles, traffic, and toxic emissions.

Sustainable last-mile delivery is the effort of e-commerce businesses to find a balance between delivering goods speedily yet with the least impact on the environment.

Here’s one way to inculcate sustainable last-mile delivery;

Use Zero-emission Fleets 

Bicycles, electric vehicles, and maybe in the future even drones and robots. All transportation means that do not emit toxic substances into the environment are Zero-emission fleets.

Rather than delivery vans, bicycles, and electric vehicles are perfect for last-mile delivery.

Electric vehicles, robot deliveries, and drones? You’re probably wondering how to navigate that with your budget.

Well, you can partner with global carriers like DPD and UPS. These carriers have some of these fleets available for their deliveries.

Zero-emission fleets are a good way to get started toward sustainable last-mile delivery.

Zero-emission fleets might affect the speed with which packages are delivered and can get your customers agitated.

Be sure to carry your customers along by educating them and letting them know that you’ll be moving towards better choices.

Sustainable delivery: bicycle delivery

5 Partner With Eco-friendly Global Carriers 

Making the environment greener isn’t a one-man effort. It’s the effort of several people who decide to make things better.

Your efforts to make the environment less toxic will mean little if you partner with carriers that are not intentional about reducing their carbon footprint.

UPS is a global carrier with sustainability at its core, it has deployed more than 13,000 low-emission vehicles around the world and also aims to plant 50 million trees by 2030.

DPD is notable for clean, green delivery. So far, they’ve recycled 736 tonnes of waste and purchased 2000+ electric vehicles with 8 million green deliveries.

These global carriers are a good place to start on your quest for sustainable e-commerce.

6 Decrease the number of delivery attempts

Instead of being fully dependent on delivery companies to become greener, you can also act yourself today. It’s not complicated at all. 

Have you ever thought about optimizing your tracking experience? By keeping your customers informated, automatically and at every step of the journey, you avoid missed delivery attempts.

Missed delivery attempts cause extra miles in the last-mile to offer a second delivery attempt, or deliver it to another location when needed. Or in worse case, to be returned to the sender. 

The last is a loss for both the environment, your business and the environment. 

Solutions like Sendcloud automate and optimize your delivery process including tracking. Find out more about branded and automated track and trace here.

Sustainable delivery: tracking updates

Tips To Reduce Carbon Footprint 

Sustainable delivery is amazing but it’ll take a while before every consumer gets to that point where they choose sustainable delivery over convenience.

There are things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint while you move towards sustainable e-commerce.

1 Carbon Offsetting 

Many times it seems that no matter how hard we try, there will always be emissions into the environment. 

This is where carbon offsetting comes in.

Carbon offsetting is simply purchasing carbon offsets for your e-commerce business. 

Carbon Offsets are credits that you purchase from the carbon market to nullify the effects of your emissions.

These credits include projects of renewable energy, reforestation, wind farms, and hydroelectric dams.

Supporting these programs by purchasing carbon offsets,  are ways to compensate for unavoidable emissions.

2 Click and Collect

Click and collect is a delivery method where customers order online, then come to pick up their packages at a predetermined point or in-store.

This method helps reduce the carbon footprint of last-mile delivery. It’s also beneficial for your business because most customers end up making another purchase with your brand.

3 Localize warehouses or in-store pickup locations

Ensuring that you have warehouses or stores close to your consumers reduces your carbon footprint and makes click-and-collect even easier.

They can serve as a point where multiple packages are delivered and customers come to either pick up or process returns. 

This isn’t a very easy solution for all retailers, but it definitely is a suitable option when you already sell offline or in other stores.

Want to know more about reducing your carbon footprint? Sign-up now for our Unboxed event series and attend the live sessions or join on-demand.

Green Delivery with Sendcloud 

More than being concerned, consumers are taking drastic measures to ensure sustainable e-commerce. 52% of consumers would choose one store over another if the environmental impact of delivery is lower.

55% of consumers are even willing to pay more for eco-friendly brands and this will increase as more customers get enlightened.

Now that’s some information.

Not only will your consumers switch, but they’re willing to pay more with a new brand to be a part of sustainable e-commerce.

This means that if you’re looking to maintain a good grip on market share, you should evolve with your customers.

The good news is, you don’t have to sweat about it because Sendcloud has got you covered.

Sendcloud makes green delivery easier for you by;

  • Offering green delivery options such as bicycle and in-store delivery in your checkout.
  • Ensuring a high delivery rate at 1st attempt by offering flexible delivery methods.
  • Providing timely and automated tracking updates to minimize failed deliveries.

Sustainable delivery: Sendcloud solutions

Sustainable E-commerce—A Greener World

E-commerce is the future. As online shopping increases, active measures must be taken to ensure that the future is not destroyed by today’s actions.

Regardless of the size of your business, any effort you make toward sustainable e-commerce counts. 

Moreso, ensure you take your customers along on your journey by keeping them informed regarding the steps you want to take and policies you enact.

That way e-commerce businesses can thrive while the environment smiles.

Sendcloud offers you resources that keep you informed on your e-commerce journey. Be sure to check it out.

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