Decarbonising the last mile: competitiveness and flexibility
How can we reduce last-mile delivery’s carbon footprint? It’s a tricky question, especially with the rise in online shopping and capillary distribution, which involve several players and circumstances, and, naturally, the interest of everyone is…
Awaiting solid, coherent public policies, within the private sector (and here we’re talking about cold logistics) some promising initiatives are emerging based on flexible, competitive processes and products that guarantee the quality of perishable products while reducing capillary distribution’s environmental impact. How?
One problem, many challenges and two solutions
Our user patterns, our distribution methods and the carbon footprint that we produce are – simply put – unsustainable. That is the problem. To offset carbon footprint without making huge sacrifices to user patterns, public authorities and private organisations are trying to address the various challenges that arise.
Challenges like inefficient energy consumption, traffic congestion on busy roads and in urban areas, our fleet not being suitable for the current climate emergency or poor air quality, especially in large cities. And when you make your living from moving things from A to B, you need to start taking these challenges very seriously.
The cold logistics industry is finding a way to overcome these challenges with two very different but complementary solutions:
- The first is flexibility. We find flexibility in logistics centres, routes, packaging, vehicles, and staff; the better they all adapt to a dynamic, multi-tasking world, the more efficient they will be.
- The second is competitiveness. We are starting to realise that customer satisfaction can be improved and our (and their) carbon footprint reduced if we optimise processes to offer the same, but better.
Best practices for capillary delivery
Last-mile distribution has already fortunately seen a series of changes be put in place with a direct or indirect impact on CO2 emissions that will no doubt be consolidated over the coming years. These are the main ones:
- Non-polluting vehicles: returning to human-powered transport modes (like bicycles, especially in densely populated urban areas) or innovating electric vehicles – which will soon be competitive – reduce the carbon footprint.
- Route rationalisation: machine learning technologies and artificial intelligence facilitate more efficient routes (i.e. those that produce fewer emissions).
- Increased service hours: delivering outside of traditional working hours helps reduce traffic congestion, besides being a strong consumer demand.
- New distribution channels: click and collect or drone deliveries are new delivery methods that have less of an impact on the environment.
Reaching carbon neutrality in cold logistics
In the cold logistics industry, the pollution problem is closely linked to energy savings because optimal thermal management that transports goods without disrupting the cold chain involves radically reducing energy costs and use to maintain the cold chain.
Packaging that is especially designed to deliver perishable goods is an important step forward, especially if it is thermally efficient and reusable, or (when that is not possible) it is made from recycled or biodegradable materials, like waste cotton from the textile industry, phase-change materials or recycled PET plastics, just like Tempack’s are.