Carbon footprint, for the uninitiated, refers to the amount of carbon that an organisation or activity might emit. It is an important part of the ecological footprint and one that, over the course of the last decade, we have heard more and more about. Everyone and everything has a carbon footprint, and what we do affects how much of an impact our carbon footprint may have on the environment.
The government has made commitments to the environment and has pledged to reduce carbon emissions within the UK, with a net zero strategy that plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. They have pledged that by 2035, they will have reduced emissions to 78%. As a result of these stringent targets, companies are being asked to look at the carbon footprint that they create and find ways in which they can help to reduce this.
A visit to many of the larger companies’ websites will, in fact, show you the steps that a particular company has taken, and the reductions they are hoping to make.
With consumers increasingly relying on home deliveries for a wider range of different goods, now is the time for the courier industry to look at how it can reduce its own carbon footprint and create a more sustainable delivery network for the future.
Parcel deliveries to people’s homes cover a significant number of miles, and this means that they are a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions. This is even more of an issue when there are failed deliveries, and they need to make the delivery again.
In 2020-21 the average parcel delivered by Royal Mail generated 221g CO2e (this includes Parcelforce parcels). The figure was 205g CO2e for just Royal Mail. The figures are a little better for parcels delivered by courier, however. With the typical home delivery round for a courier covering fifty miles, with an assumption of 120 drop-offs and an average of 0.42 miles between each drop-off point, there is a carbon footprint of around 181g of CO2e per parcel.
Whilst these numbers will obviously drop, the more parcels a courier has to deliver within a smaller area, they are still relatively large. This is the nature of courier deliveries.
Some companies have already taken steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their deliveries through the use of “green” features. Some top supermarkets have introduced green deliveries to their grocery shopping – these are slots that indicate there is already a delivery taking place at that time relatively close to a customer. Amazon has introduced the concept of Amazon Day Delivery, where customers who buy a number of items over the course of several days can choose to have them delivered all together on a designated day and thereby reducing the carbon footprint of their delivery.
That being said, statistics indicate that home delivery is, in fact, 24 times more friendly to the environment than going shopping in your own car, but of course, there is still room for improvement.
One of the most obvious steps that courier companies can reduce their carbon footprint relates to the vehicles that they use. With an increase in the availability of electric vehicles, there has never been a better time for companies to consider adding them to their delivery fleet.
The big companies are already taking the lead when it comes to electric vehicles, with Amazon pledging to have 100,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030. This will be a significant increase on the 10,000 they had by the end of 2022. Whilst the availability of electric vehicles may have been slowed during the pandemic, things are once again picking up, and courier companies are looking to make their move to electric.
Logistics software also has its part to play in making the logistics industry more efficient and therefore helping to reduce the carbon footprint. Software that can plot out the best and most fuel-efficient route for a day’s worth of deliveries can really make a difference to the carbon footprint of each parcel they deliver.
Integrated digital technology and GPS assist couriers once they are on the road, and can help them make on-the-spot alterations to their route that will allow them to avoid accidents and congestion that might slow them down and lead to more fuel consumption. When combined with other measures, this can make a significant impact on carbon footprint.
Of course, there are only so many changes that courier companies can apply to the way in which they make their deliveries. Fortunately, there are other ways in which they can reduce their carbon footprint.
Under the umbrella of carbon offsetting, couriers can encourage their customers to help them in the fight to reduce the carbon footprint through the use of recyclable packaging, and in the case of smaller sellers like those on eBay, for example, through the use of recycled packaging.
Planting trees is another perfect example of carbon offsetting, and one that courier companies can easily adopt. When you cannot reduce your carbon footprint by making alterations to the way in which you operate, you can match some of the negative consequences of what you do with a positive action that will counteract it.
Check out what we are doing in our effort to make all deliveries carbon neutral by visiting our Ethics and Planet section by clicking the link.
With a forecasted rise in the popularity and provision of same-day deliveries, courier companies could see their carbon footprint rising once again. Whilst just over 40% of customers are more than happy to pay extra for the convenience of same-day delivery, a staggering half of all consumers are completely unaware of the impact that this type of delivery, compared to standard delivery options can have on the environment.
It would seem that whilst courier companies are making all the right moves to reduce their carbon footprint, they will only be able to do so much without a better understanding by the public of the price that is actually being paid for speedier deliveries.