Home CATEGORIES Business Ethics & Philanthropy How Faster Shipping Impacts the Environment

How Faster Shipping Impacts the Environment

By: Riley Panko
According to new research by Clutch, nearly half of online shoppers receive packages within 2-3 days of placing their orders.
Unfortunately, rushed shipping can lead to significant environmental problems.
For example, Amazon’s 2017 deliveries emitted roughly 19 million metric tons of carbon, and that was before the company began rolling out its new one-day shipping standard.
In this article, we show you why faster shipping speeds negatively impact the environment and explain what your business can do to contribute to environmentally-responsible shipping practices.
How Fast Shipping Impacts the Environment
Past studies indicated that online shopping could be better for the environment because people don’t need to drive to physical stores to make their purchases.
The environmental advantages of online shopping disappear, however, when shoppers select speedy delivery.
Carbon footprint of in-store vs online shopping
Source: Huffington Post
In an interview with CNN Business, Director of UPS Global Sustainability Patrick Browne, says that fast shipping speeds have a direct effect on the environment.
“Time in transit has a direct impact on the environment,” Browne said. “The more time you allow us to deliver that package, the more efficient we can be with our network.”
For example, when you order a product that’s not in stock at your local fulfilment centre, that product is shipped by air overnight. When the plane arrives at the facility the next day, there’s a rush to get it on the truck and to your home within hours.
The result is that delivery trucks often can’t wait for a full load, and end up travelling before their space is fully packed. This means more trucks, more fuel, and more emissions are needed to meet rush shipping deadlines.
Rush shipping also impacts how truck deliveries’ routes are consolidated.
When quick shipping demands immediate delivery, drivers can’t consolidate packages as well by neighbourhood. Rushing package deliveries results in a decreased number of packages delivered per mile and more trucks on the road.
Online shopping has the potential to benefit the environment, but quick shipping times significantly alter the benefits, creating an overall harmful impact.
What Can Businesses Do?
Fortunately, businesses can help tip the scales of online shopping back into an environmentally-healthy balance.
You can encourage your customers to opt for standard shipping, then consolidate your fulfilment process to minimize the impact of deliveries.
Most customers default to 2-3 day shipping, even when items aren’t immediately needed. Quick shipping is a convenience that retailers such as Amazon and Walmart have taught shoppers to expect.
Shoppers are becoming more aware of how their purchases impact the environment, though.
For example, many Amazon reviewers consider packaging when writing product reviews.
Amazon Review
Source: Amazon
Many shoppers are aware of the environmental impacts of their purchases and want to make improvements. This is an excellent time to gently persuade consumers to opt for standard shipping over rush deliveries.
Some of the ways you can encourage your customers to choose slow shipping are:
Nudge your customers toward standard shipping options by educating them on the benefits of slow shipping.
For example, one MIT study found that when customers who chose rush shipping were provided with information on how standard shipping benefits the environment, more than half changed their minds and switched to slower shipping.
Use third-party logistics providers to help you consolidate the fulfilment process with other businesses and minimize the environmental impact of your deliveries.
Consider shipping your slow-ship orders in green boxes. One study found that neighbours have a significant effect on each other when it comes to environmental behaviour. Consider rewarding slow shippers with packaging that shows off their commitment to the environment, such as packaging standard-ship speed orders in bright green boxes.
Using recycled and reusable packaging can also contribute to the health of the environment.
The majority of customers feel that environmentally-friendly business practices are more important than low prices, so your efforts at encouraging standard shipping speeds may be well-appreciated.
The actions you take toward environmentally-friendly packaging and shipping don’t need to go unnoticed.
Consider developing a corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy that focuses on your environmental efforts toward responsible packaging and shipping.
You can support your CSR policies with employee volunteer outings, fundraising events, and social media awareness campaigns.
By considering ways to slow down your shipping speeds, you also create an opportunity to generate good public relations benefits for your business.
How Slow Shipping Can Help Can Help the Environment and Create Customer Loyalty
Rush shipping is harmful to the environment because it doesn’t allow shipping companies to consolidate their deliveries or travel routes. Businesses can play a significant role in altering customers’ shipping expectations while still keeping shoppers happy and loyal.
Riley PankoRiley Panko leads Clutch’s logistics, supply chain, and business services research and content efforts.

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The CSR Journal Team