In the circular economy, delivery infrastructure plays an important role in transporting resources to where they are best used. That’s why the circular economy needs “clean shipping” – or more specifically, it requires new innovative approaches, strategies, and industry partnerships to lessen the shipping industry’s environmental impact and emissions, both of which are currently heading in the wrong direction.
According to Boston Consulting Group, shipping via heavy and light trucks, aviation, rail, and sea accounts for 17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Adding to the challenge, the pandemic is estimated to have accelerated the shift to e-commerce by five years and has reshaped last-mile logistics. With the sustained move to e-commerce driven largely by the COVID-fuelled surge in online shopping, it is anticipated that there will be one-third more delivery vehicles driving around city streets by 2030.
The sustainable technologies needed for clean shipping – from eco-friendly packaging to zero-emissions last-mile fleets – are here. Making the move to clean shipping might seem intimidating and perhaps even expensive to some companies, but it doesn’t have to be either of those. Asset light carriers are just one example that prove that environmentally sustainable shipping is not only possible, but that it can also create new value by cutting costs for shipping providers and customers alike.
For example, Sendle, the first national carbon neutral parcel delivery service in the U.S. and a Certified B Corporation, doesn’t add Sendle trucks to the road to provide its service or expand its capacity. Rather, the asset light carrier partners with existing couriers and shipping companies to create a reliable shipping network designed to meet the specific needs of small businesses. The company takes advantage of unused space on delivery trucks to minimize its carbon footprint and provide cost savings to its small business customers.
Sendle also uses data and analytics to streamline the delivery process, reduce unnecessary stops, and adjust delivery routes to minimize emissions. This approach aligns well with the circular economy by optimizing the shipping process to reduce carbon emissions, and thereby comes full circle by helping customers – large and small – ship their goods in a more sustainable way.
Shipping providers can also take accountability for the carbon pollution from their networks by investing in initiatives that preserve and regenerate natural ecosystems. To date, Sendle has offset emissions from the 25 billion miles that its parcels have traveled by contributing to biodiversity and reforestation projects around the world.
The time has come for the industry to factor in clean shipping to do their part to support and succeed in the circular economy. The technologies are here but they need to become the standards sooner rather than later. The good news is that this shift to more sustainable shipping facilitated by the circular economy doesn’t need to be an obstacle; in fact, it can be an opportunity for shipping providers with the right models, strategies, and partners.
About the Author: Veena Harbaugh is the Director of Sustainability at Sendle, the first national 100% carbon neutral carrier in the US specifically designed for small eCommerce businesses. Fascinated by companies that make substantive positive impacts on the environment and business, Veena is responsible for spearheading all sustainability initiatives at Sendle.