How to colour the last mile green

1 March 2019

Over the next few years, we can expect logistics to become more sustainable. Apart from meeting customer demands for improved sustainability, it makes good business sense: being sustainable can cut costs. Cost reduction and protecting the environment, a win-win if ever there was one.

Sustainable consumer behaviour

Mindful of source scarcity, a growing group of consumers is prepared to make adjustments to their customer journey according to the changes in ecological circumstances. Reducing the mountain of waste we have created – and are still creating – is now a top priority. Some consumers have started to wonder how “green” it is to order a washing machine from abroad, just to save a fraction of the price compared to a machine produced nearby.

Even though consumers have largely adopted a mantra of I Want What I Want When I Want It, change is just around the corner. Now, it is normal to order any time of  the day (or night) and decide for yourself how and when to receive delivery. In the future, customer demands are likely to be the driving force behind new logistics concepts. All the parties in the retail chain – from vendors to national and international mail and parcel delivery companies – are facing tough decisions. Increased cooperation is being demanded of them. What with the growing volume of traffic in inner cities and residential areas, combined with the demands of being environmentally sound and efficient, may leave them no other option than to work together with other businesses.

What sustainability means for delivery: an overview

The DESTEP model is a useful way to measure how more sustainable consumer behaviour affects delivery. There are six aspects, which all have consequences. Some examples:

  • Demographic: more single-person households require more efficient deliveries
  • Economic: linear economy becoming circular means end-of-life returns becoming part of delivery
  • Socio-cultural: fewer boundaries between work/life means more different delivery points
  • Technical: transparency in the value chain is increasing, improved route efficiency is a must
  • Ecological: longer product life span requires improved logistics of returns
  • Political: ecologically-driven new legislation and regulation means consumer prices will incorporate environmental costs

New types of delivery can consolidate the flow of distribution, reduce environmental impact and use local communities more efficiently. Local initiatives, including deliveries on bikes or electronic vehicles by people you know and pickup points in neighbourhood stores and residential areas: these are all solutions which cater to sustainable delivery and, in effect, colour the last mile green.

This is blog 45, based on my book ‘The end of online shopping. The future of retail in an always connected world’, published by Business Contact (Dutch/Flemish editions), Nubiz (English edition for UK and US, and Danish editions), WSCP Singapore (English edition for SE Asia), Post & Telecom Publishers Beijing (Chinese edition), Hoepli (Italian edition). Most recently, the book was published in Korean in December 2018 and it is being translated in German, to be published in spring 2019. Additional translations are being prepared for later in 2019.

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