As the e-commerce industry continues expanding at an exponential rate, it is hard to look past the impact that the growth has on the environment. Not only has the boost in e-commerce industries propelled fast fashion and compulsive shopping behaviours in around the globe, it has also contributed to the declining state of the environment through increased toxic waste, greenhouse emissions and pollution.
The e-commerce industry shows little signs of slowing down, but what can we do to mitigate the impacts on the environment and climate? As environmental and economic sustainability are intertwined, logistics companies need to strategize future business practices to remain relevant.
As opposed to traditional brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce and online retailers face a much bigger issue when it comes to packaging their products.
E-commerce is set to grow to a whopping $4.88 trillion in 2021 and this has a direct impact on the amount of wastage garnered by single-use plastics. According to the United Nations, the modern plague of plastics could reach new highs - with more plastic waste than fish in the ocean by 2050.
One way logistics providers can alleviate the plastics packaging problem is to encourage consumers to reuse or recycle packaging. By deep-diving into research, logistics providers will be better able to upgrade the recycling infrastructure and develop more sustainable packaging to cut back on waste. Moreover, the need to incorporate greener practices has been backed by the consumers’ increasing demand for more environmentally sustainable packaging solutions and greater public awareness.
Last Mile Carbon Footprint
A higher amount of online shopping directly translates to a number of vehicles on the road - serving all of your last-mile deliveries. With trucks and vans being the main form of last-mile transportation, carbon emissions are on the rise as consumers expect their packages delivered in a short time.
The unforeseen challenges of traffic delays and congestion also contribute to the increase in carbon emissions if vehicles are left idle, travelling slowly or ineffectively with route plans. To effectively combat the carbon footprint of last-mile deliveries, logistics providers need to come up with sustainable alternatives to match the increase in e-commerce transactions.
Aside from optimised route deliveries, logistics companies can also utilise greener methods such as parcel lockers, trams and waterway routes where possible.
Pursuing greener solutions often result in higher costs, from the procurement of packaging to absorption of damages due to unsuitable packaging materials. Although companies are expected to prioritise their economic gains before the environment, the growing awareness of sustainability has since made it impossible for companies to leave environmental concerns on the back-burner.
Companies that are capable of merging sustainability initiatives with their operational practices will have the added advantage of improving their business image and have a chance at expanding their client base to include environmentally conscious consumers. This in itself serves as an incentive for logistics companies to invest in environmentally sustainable operations.
The sustainability realm of e-commerce constitutes of more than mere packaging and carbon footprint problems. Logistics providers that are capable of adopting greener practices will be better poised to handle the shift in consumer attitudes whilst still reaping the benefits of e-commerce.