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Sustainability

How to Make Shipping More Sustainable in 3 Simple Steps

Sustainability
April 10, 2022
7 min read
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Carbon emissions from final mile deliveries increased by 5% in 2021, leaving many merchants wondering what they can do to make shipping more sustainable. This straightforward guide lays out three simple things merchants of all sizes can do to decrease their carbon footprint for more sustainable shipping.

What Is Sustainable Shipping?

Sustainable shipping is a way of approaching shipping practices with the primary goal of lessening the environmental impact of moving goods. Some sustainable shipping practices include: 

  • More efficient packaging to reduce waste
  • Recycled or compostable packaging
  • Aggregating shipments so customers receive packages on a reduced schedule
  • Decreasing time in transit (TNT) to lower carbon emissions
  • Using electric final mile delivery vehicles
  • Offsetting carbon emissions created by shipments

Depending on the resources available to your business and the packaging and shipping needs of your products, you may choose to focus on any number of these practices to make your shipping more sustainable.

Why Does Sustainable Shipping Matter?

Shopping patterns, and therefore shipping patterns, have changed dramatically since 2020. The number of final mile delivery vehicles on the road is expected to increase 36%, and greenhouse gas emissions are projected to increase by 30% overall by 2030 – all due to the ecommerce boom. 

Then comes the added complication of reverse logistics. eCommerce return rates are sometimes 35% higher than traditional retail. And ecommerce shoppers expect options for returns– from scheduled carrier pickups, to in-store returns, to drop off centers. Whatever the transit mode, ecommerce returns and resale activity is estimated to create 10 billion unnecessary transportation trips each year.

What’s more, consumers care about sustainable shipping. In fact, 88% of consumers say that sustainability is an important consideration when they’re making a purchase decision, and 66% say that sustainability has become more important to them as a result of the pandemic.

eCommerce shoppers seem to understand the environmental impacts of their new shopping habits – 64% of eco-conscious consumers say their highest priority for sustainable business practices is recycled packaging, and 41% say their top concern is eco-friendly shipping.

Making shipping more sustainable, then, matters for the future of our planet, and it likely matters to your customers. Shared values can drive brand affinity and increase customer lifetime value (CLV) at a time when customer acquisition costs are historically high.

How to Make Shipping More Sustainable

There are three primary ways that businesses of all sizes can make shipping more sustainable:

  1. Decreasing their reliance on air shipments
  2. Decreasing their time in transit (TNT)
  3. Offsetting carbon emissions created by their shipping activities

1. Decreasing Air Shipments

When today’s consumers place an order online, they expect to receive it quickly – typically within one to two days. Often called “The Amazon Effect,” the expectation for 1- to 2-day shipping has trickled down to businesses of all sizes, with 42% of consumers expecting a 2-day shipping option for every purchase they make online.

For many merchants, that means shipping via overnight air. Analysts predict that as merchants work to meet consumers’ growing expectations, overnight air shipments will increase by 5% each year for the next five years.

What does more air shipments mean for the environmental impact of delivery? For one thing, it means significantly higher carbon emissions. According to data analysts, air shipments emit six times more carbon than ground shipments of the same weight.

2. Decreasing Time in Transit (TNT)

Time in transit (TNT) refers to the time a package spends on a delivery vehicle along any stretch of its journey through the supply chain. Ultimately, the more time a product spends on a delivery vehicle, the more carbon it emits. 

Final mile delivery makes up about 5% of carbon emissions in most supply chains and therefore has a high potential for environmental impact. Businesses can easily decrease the TNT of their final mile deliveries by distributing inventory closer to their end customers. Merchants who are currently fulfilling all of their orders from a single warehouse could potentially lower their TNT by almost one and a half days by simply adding a second warehouse on the other coast.

3. Offsetting Carbon Emissions

Purchasing carbon offsets is a simple and impactful way for merchants to make shipping more sustainable. Verified carbon credits support reforestation and forest preservation efforts that neutralize carbon output through carbon drawdown.

Ware2Go’s Carbon Offset Shipping Program uses data analytics to measure the amount of carbon emitted by merchants each quarter. Then, through a partnership with Pachama, Ware2Go purchases carbon credits to draw down an equivalent amount of carbon. Learn more about how Ware2Go’s data analysts measure carbon emissions to ensure that all carbon emissions are accounted for in the video below.

Sustainable Shipping Does Not Mean Slow Shipping

While consumers do care about sustainable shipping, they also care about fast shipping. In fact, a report by the Harvard Business Review found that, although 65% of consumers say they want to support sustainable business practices, only 26% actually do. An analysis by Shopify came to the conclusion that consumers have been trained to expect speed and convenience above all else, and that even environmentally-conscious consumers choose expedited shipping when it’s available.

However, the idea that sustainable shipping will be slower or less convenient is simply untrue. With a distributed warehousing partner like Ware2Go, merchants of all sizes can meet consumer expectations for speed and sustainability. Ware2Go’s warehouse network can enable any merchant to meet 100% of the US with 1- to 2-day ground shipping.

By optimizing their network for ground shipping, merchants decrease their reliance on next-day air shipments, lower their TNT, and still meet customer expectations for fast shipping. Additionally, all shipments through Ware2Go’s network are offset through the purchase of carbon credits. The reforestation and forest preservation programs our carbon credits support are monitored by Pachama to guarantee that they are effective and ongoing.

If your business is looking for more ways to make shipping more sustainable, reach out to one of our fulfillment experts or click here to learn more about our Carbon Offset Shipping Network.

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