19 August 2021
Embedding sustainability into retail logistics is a huge challenge. Complex fulfilment models need to be cracked open. But before all that, right now in fact, there’s an opportunity to switch to a clean last mile delivery model today using ship from store. Linking online shoppers with their local store fosters a closer brand relationship, helping to bridge the gap between online and bricks and mortar retail.
Retailers are at a crossroads plotting their net zero plans, particularly around logistics where decisions are extremely complex. The BRC and DP World recently released an important report summarising the challenges facing retailers as they shift to EVs. The report shows how vehicle choice in the EV market doesn’t fit with existing needs, that charging infrastructure is insufficient, and costs remain daunting. Net zero targets mean brands are committed to significant changes, but vehicle lifespans mean decisions made today will have repercussions on operating costs and CO2 emissions well into the future.
The move to EVs is important and regardless of these challenges, retailers, their delivery partners and government will need to work together to crack on. But it’s a mistake to think a complete switch from diesel to electric vans will provide a simple fix for the necessary transition to sustainable logistics. The unique challenges of the urban last mile require a different approach. The World Economic Forum recently said that emissions from last mile deliveries are on track to rise over 30% in ten years – up to 25 million tonnes per year – as the number of urban populations and online retail continue to grow. It predicts that demand for urban last mile delivery will grow 78% by 2030, leading to a 36% rise in delivery vehicles in inner cities. London, like many other cities across the world is quite literally suffocating from congestion and pollution caused, in the main, by retail deliveries and a higher proportion of returns.
EVs still add to the congestion problem and, unlike urban specialist vehicles including electric cargo bikes, they can’t nimbly filter past traffic or use cycle and bus lanes. This makes for a substandard delivery experience. Whether that’s because customers aren’t given choice on when they receive their packages, or because getting stuck in traffic is stressful for under-pressure delivery staff, which often results in a poor doorstep experience.