The rise of e-commerce and the increasing popularity of online shopping has benefits for consumers but can also have downsides. An increase in parcel deliveries can lead to increased traffic congestion and associated packaging can cause environmental issues.
In an article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Tamara Barker, Chief Sustainability Officer for UPS discussed some of the initiatives her company is taking to help overcome these challenges.
The easy answer to solving congestion is to drive less. But city-dwellers want reliable access to goods, which reinforces the importance of e-commerce delivery into their neighbourhoods. Instead, Barker notes that UPS has looked at how congestion can be tackled by using alternative vehicles and convenient package pick-up locations.
Barker gives the example of Hamburg in Germany. Its city centre is lined with narrow streets, which hampers modern delivery demands. Working with the city and local retailer association, UPS developed a solution that replaced large delivery vehicles with a smaller city-friendly fleet.
Packages for the day’s deliveries are loaded into a storage container, which is delivered to the city centre early in the morning. UPS drivers deliver packages from the container throughout the city centre and in pedestrian-only zones by foot or by using electrically assisted tricycles designed to navigate narrow streets. This initiative is now being rolled out in some other European cities and being trialled in several US cities.
More frequent deliveries have led to increased demand for cardboard. The question of what happens to these materials after delivery is important. Consumers find it frustrating to break packaging down and can find it difficult to identify which materials are recyclable. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, containers and packaging accounted for 30% – or 75.2m tonnes – of total solid waste generated in the United States.
Consumers are more aware of environmental issues and it is becoming essential for companies to take them into account. Employees as well as consumers value caring for the environment when they consider working for or purchasing from a company.
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