Offering a sustainable last-mile service has increasingly become a top priority for logistics providers.  Rising customer demand for environmentally friendly services, tightening environmental regulations and growing expectations for greater corporate social responsibility are some of the key drivers influencing companies to implement greener strategies. The COVID-19 pandemic especially has highlighted the importance of carbon neutrality, with soaring e-commerce deliveries have increasingly come under scrutiny for their sustainability. According to Parcel and Postal Technology International, consumers have begun to prioritize sustainability alongside speed and convenience, with 61.0% of all online shoppers surveyed stating they would like sustainable delivery options.

A key challenge for sustainable logistics is how to provide a last-mile service that is both efficient and sustainable. According to consultants McKinsey & Company, as people continue to expect swift delivery times, last-mile delivery systems are becoming a bottleneck. Logistics providers are struggling to deal with increasing volumes of goods, resulting in slower delivery times, less flexibility in delivery time slots, and higher delivery costs for customers. Furthermore, as delivery traffic steadily rises, the negative effects on the environment will likely grow unless actions are taken to mitigate them.

Technology may offer a solution. Founded in Stockholm in 2014, Urb-It is a logistics platform that provides last-mile urban logistics services across Europe exclusively on foot, bikes or via its e-cargo fleet and has recently begun operating in Spain, its third European market, after the UK and France. The platform is centred around providing sustainable logistics within e-commerce markets to reduce noise pollution, air pollution and congestion, with plans to continue its expansion across major European cities. The platform connects drivers who use the platform to available deliveries to provide same or next day delivery, offering flexible work schedules and competitive earnings.

In 2020, the platform partnered with DHL Express France, providing last-mile deliveries direct from DHL’s distribution centres to consumers in the greater Paris area. In June 2021, the platform also partnered with Amazon Logistics to deliver its parcels in the Paris area, as well as its partnership with parcel carrier Yodel in the UK to include Glasgow and Bristol for the first time, as well as extending its services in London. Additionally, the company recently opened a fulfilment centre in the Bristol area and is in the process of looking for further partnerships with brands to deliver e-commerce parcels to their customers.

Last-mile courier platforms are nothing new; Amazon Flex operates in a similar way, offering couriers zero-hour, flexible delivery jobs using their own vehicles. However, anecdotal evidence suggests the environmental impact of this scheme is questionable, with some users suggesting the app will sometimes ask users to deliver a smaller number of packages in their delivery blocks than the average driver. Logistics platforms such as Urb-it offer an environmentally conscious alternative to  last-mile delivery which can operate within environmental legislation frameworks. For example, the UK government has set legal limits for pollution starting in 2022, prompting many councils to introduce Clean Air Zones which charges drivers whose vehicles exceed emissions standards. Users of platforms like Urb-it are able to avoid these charges, whilst also contributing to local green goals.

Other sustainable start-up platforms offer various solutions to the green last-mile problem. Swiss start-up RigiTech develops drones that have large payload capacities which make efficient cargo delivery possible. RigiOne, their main product, is powered with an electrically charged battery and therefore emits no emissions. Similarly, last-mile delivery management software Urbantz has launched a green delivery slot service that defines, ranks, and visualises upcoming delivery windows by their eco-impact with the hope of encouraging its customer’s consumer base to choose more sustainable last-mile emissions. With increasing pressure on e-commerce to go green, sustainable last-mile platforms may increasingly play a vital role in the pursual of carbon neutrality.

Source: Transport Intelligence, 24th February 2022

Author: Nia Hudson

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