Balancing the Demand for Faster and “Cheaper” Delivery in a Socially Responsible Way

The epitome of fast shipping has been achieved, with some retailers now offering next-day and even same-day shipping. Now, the challenge is how to sustain the growing use of fast delivery in an environmentally and socially responsible way.

Stock Boxes

Same-day shipping. Once unbelievable, now expected.

People have been “window shopping” since antiquity. In Ancient Rome, the shopping center was called a “forum.” Fast forward a few thousand years and window shopping is starting to give way to online shopping. Why? Time, efficiency and speed.

The internet has always been about speed and convenience and nowhere is this sentiment stronger than in the world of e-commerce. In the beginning of the online shopping days, it was always faster to buy offline than it was online. Soon, faster shipping options like 2-day shipping came along and quickly became the norm, forcing online retailers to find ways to offer free 2-day shipping to compete.

The epitome of fast shipping has been achieved, with some retailers now offering next-day and even same-day shipping. Now, the challenge for retailers and shippers is how to sustain the growing use of fast delivery in an environmentally and socially responsible way.

The cost of shipping

Who is paying the price? Employees.

Unfortunately, employees are at the core of the problems created by irresponsible shipping practices. Same-day shipping exponentially increases the amount of effort required (and resulting stress) with minimal increments in pay. This reduces the team morale and performance, and in many cases, can lead to medical complications due to overexertion.

Every organization has a responsibility to provide its employees with a safe working environment, better pay and protect them from unnecessary stress. This industry has one of the highest employee turnover rates, which means we can certainly do better.

The environment

Every year, climate change becomes a bigger threat to the planet, and irresponsible shipping is a key contributor to carbon emissions. In fact, by simply increasing the number of package deliveries per trip, the impact on the environment can be reduced exponentially.

Similarly, by adopting greener packaging options and encouraging consumers to do the same, retailers can play a crucial role in combating the issue of climate change.

The risks of not going green

Responsible shipping will soon be a requirement. 

1. Increasing public scrutiny. Consumers are demanding that companies become socially responsible, especially with their carbon footprint. Brands that take proactive measures to reduce their footprint, enjoy positive media coverage, more sales and brand ambassador goodwill.

2. Potential government intervention. Due to increased public pressure, governments are taking action against companies as well. Ignoring current guidelines attract government attention and possible litigation. On the other hand, enterprises may avail financial benefits from the government for implementing eco-friendly work methodologies.

3. Losing the competitive edge. Continuing irresponsible shipping practices undoubtedly means that retailers and shippers are going to eventually lose their competitive edge due to higher costs, employee turnover, inefficient shipping methods and lost business from consumers who want to contribute to a greener tomorrow.

Online deliveries that come with packaging that’s too big for the item ordered

1. Maintaining a positive workplace. It’s scientifically proven that a happy workforce is more productive. Retailers and shippers can maintain a positive workplace in a number of ways. Financial rewards are always powerful incentives, but non-financial incentives are just as important.

Regular breaks, for instance, should not be overlooked. Giving warehouse workers enough time to rest and replenish their energy promotes higher productivity and a more positive environment. Another important element of a positive workplace is safety. Workplace injuries and accidents can be costly, cause delays and lower morale, but they’re completely avoidable through proper training.

2. Improving last-mile delivery

Last-mile delivery refers to the final leg of a delivery that ends at the customer’s doorstep. Despite being the shortest leg of the delivery, it’s often the most expensive and time-consuming for retailers. Inefficient last-mile delivery also has a disproportionately large carbon footprint.

Improving last-mile delivery is one of the more complex issues for retailers, especially smaller retailers that cannot leverage economies of scale. For this reason, the most cost-effective and eco-friendly solution is partnering with a reliable logistics provider that does more deliveries at a time, able to fill delivery vehicle capacity— reducing cost and total carbon emissions.

3. Automation. Automating and essentially eliminating repetitive and mundane activities can significantly reduce the workload on your employees— freeing up crucial time for other important operations, including breaks.

The beauty of automation is its scalability. Retailers can start small by automating shift scheduling and alerts for employees, and go as far as implementing artificial intelligence to create more efficient delivery routes and timelines automatically.

Automation can help reduce carbon footprint by planning shipping routes, accurately taking into consideration traffic, weather, fuel costs, etc.

E-commerce stores and shippers can also leverage automation to manage their inventory with greater accuracy to achieve maximum efficiency.

4. “Green shipping” options. Many retailers and shipping partners are offering a “green shipping” option to shoppers and users. While the specifics are different depending on the business, the basic idea behind the “green shipping” option is to offer a delivery that results in lower carbon emissions, that is not speed focused. The longer shipping time allows retailers to bundle and ship more orders together (instead of sending separately in separate boxes), which reduces packaging, cost and environmental impact.

5. More efficient planning. A bulk of the costs and environmental impact of irresponsible shipping comes from inefficient planning and management. This includes everything from ineffective inventory management, slower routes, and shipping partners that do not leverage the latest technologies to improve their deliveries.