Greening the Last Mile

Greening the Last Mile

Last-mile delivery—the end stage of delivery from a pickup point or sortation center to a package’s final destination—is the most expensive aspect of the supply chain, from high fuel costs and address location to labor and first delivery failure. It also has the highest environmental impact of any other part of the supply chain.

At a time when fast shipping and free returns seems to be the norm, companies are taking a hard look at how improvements along the supply chain could boost green practices and sustainability overall. It comes down to creating and implementing eco-friendly last-mile delivery strategies while also bringing on the right team members in “green careers” to do so.

Green careers boost sustainability

Identifying opportunities where a company can reduce its carbon footprint is the first important step in acting. Gathering sustainability metrics and carbon offsets may require onboarding more talent with knowledge and background in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), and Environmental Health & Safety (EHS).

Almost every job description in the supply chain mentions sustainability, and hiring managers are prioritizing candidates who have a background in EHS, whether that’s in their degree or job experience.

However, this is not limited to certain executive roles like chief sustainability officer. Companies are looking for candidates with technical EHS backgrounds across the board so that the entire team shares the burden of sustainability while implementing more eco-friendly strategies, rather than placing the responsibility on one person.

On the flip side, candidates are looking for companies that value sustainability and whether or not their values align. For many, it could be a driving strategy or change in mindset, while for others, it might be a social purpose—they will look at the core business function to see if it aligns with their personal values or goals.

After the foundation has been set with talent who can think holistically about sustainable business practices, then it’s time to make changes. Here are a few suggestions to consider when identifying opportunities to reduce last-mile delivery’s carbon footprint.

Move to micro-fulfillment. Moving product closer to consumers may help solve sustainability issues by reducing the climate impact from larger warehouse facilities and traffic congestion.

Micro-fulfillment centers in the form of smaller warehouse facilities, automated lockers, and click-and-collect points could reduce vehicle-related emissions by 16-26% by 2025, according to Accenture.

Sustainable and efficient packaging options. Looking into efficient packaging options that require fewer vehicles to go out on the road is a critical aspect of last-mile sustainability. More than shipping efficiency, looking into more sustainable options for the packages themselves could be the key to reducing waste generated in the supply chain.

Reducing the amount of waste produced by home deliveries through sustainable or eco-friendly packaging is a huge step in decreasing the supply chains’ overall environmental impact, especially in last-mile delivery.

Invest in carbon offsets. Planting trees, using solar or wind energy, or re-distributing resources like heat to offset emissions produced by the supply chain can make the last-mile more eco-friendly. If successful, offset investment could be increased to reduce emissions from the whole of the supply chain.

There are plenty of opportunities within the last mile or through personnel to make meaningful changes for greater sustainability, before it’s too late.