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Asendia survey sheds light on green delivery challenge

14 April 2023

Honesty about carbon impact of delivery is what eCommerce customers crave, says Clara Philpin.

PARCEL DELIVERIES using only reusable packaging was the ‘top delivery consideration’ in Asendia’s new survey of 8,000 global eCommerce shoppers. How to Sell Direct in the Age of the Conflicted Shopper’ found that 40% of consumers named this as important to them, with carbon-neutral deliveries the next big consideration (30%).

Consumer sentiment is one good reason why eCommerce retailers and their shipping partners need to cut down on the use of virgin plastic in parcel packaging and lighten the carbon footprint of their delivery operations. But there’s another – tighter regulations. Since last April, UK businesses that manufacture or import plastic packaging have had to pay a new tax on any products that do not contain at least 30% recycled plastic. 

In fact, both the UK and the EU are bringing in packaging taxes which affect some online sellers based on how much packaging they import and where they sell.

The UK legislation became enforceable on April 1st 2022, and to avoid extra costs, retailers have been making changes to the amount of virgin plastic used in packaging since the tax was announced in 2018. An estimated 20,000 businesses across a broad range of sectors will be affected. Businesses that fall within the regime will need to submit quarterly returns to HMRC detailing weights of plastic packaging components imported into the UK, manufactured in the UK, containing 30% or more recycled content, and/or exempt, amongst other things.

Meanwhile, the EU’s Green Deal will soon force businesses selling in Europe to address their packaging waste. The revised EU legislation on Packaging and Packaging Waste will hope to boost reuse and refill, prevent further packaging waste from being produced, and make all packaging recyclable by 2030. This will soon make packaging waste a much bigger issue for eCommerce retailers and brands. 

Authenticity and honesty matter 

Thankfully, the majority of retailers, brands, and online merchants are addressing this and are sourcing greener packaging options, and factoring in bag re-use in their returns operations, for example.

It's worth making these efforts – not just for compliance reasons, but because consumers respond well to authenticity and honesty regarding sustainable business. 

Our ‘How to Sell Direct in the Age of the Conflicted Shopper’ report, mentioned earlier, found that trust in ‘authentic’ brands translates to customers staying loyal and spending more. Overall, 70% of UK shoppers spend more with brands they perceive to be authentic. The Silent Generation (76yos+) and Gen Z are the most likely UK cohorts to spend more, based on authenticity (72% each). And 65% of UK consumers say they would switch to a competitor if they felt a brand wasn’t authentic.

So, from a logistics perspective, it helps to be truthful about how and where products are made and to be honest about eCommerce delivery’s impact on the environment. Brands and their fulfilment and postal partners need to consider: How green can parcel shipping realistically be? Our view at Asendia is that reporting eco-efforts with honesty will pay dividends. You can communicate the progress being made, without over-claiming your green credentials. Consumers today realise that cutting carbon takes time and innovation.

Carbon neutral delivery and other innovations 

Sustainability innovations in the eCommerce fulfilment and delivery space go much further than packaging. E-retailers can now provide green last-mile delivery thanks to the rise of e-bikes and EVs (electric vehicles). AI and energy efficient warehouse systems are addressing the carbon footprint of supply chain operations. There are carbon-neutral shipping options, even if you air freight parcels internationally, as Asendia does on behalf of brands. 

Since January 2022, Asendia is 100% carbon neutral, offsetting all emissions caused by international transport worldwide, including those by partners. From that date, Asendia also offset emissions from parcel returns, buildings, machinery, and business travel, meaning scope 1, 2, and 3 have been addressed.

Our commitment to sustainability has enabled us to offset a total of 517,838 tCO2e over a three-year period. We have contributed to two EcoAct-verified wind farm projects in India and China and planted 62,000 trees in the UK, partnering with the Woodland Trust. 

Practical innovations help reduce waste along the e-delivery journey. Along with others in the eCommerce fulfilment industry, Asendia is part of the International Postal Corporation (IPC) Eco Pallet Boxes project. Embedded with RFID technology, the boxes can be tracked and stock can be managed. They can also be used in all destinations of its network creating a circular economy – when the boxes arrive, they can be reused and sent to other destinations in the network minimising the need for repatriation of pallet boxes. 

Additionally, they are 100% recyclable, durable, and environmentally friendly. As they can be flattened, they are easy to transport and store, making warehouse operations more efficient.

In the past, methods of cross-border road transport were not efficient, due to the use of cages and other methods. In order to streamline operations both domestically and cross-border, while saving costs, the IPC Pallet Box was created. The IPC Pallet Box allows for more efficient use of road transport by minimising equipment tare weight (weight of an empty container) and maximising use of the load capacity.

Communicate with honesty 

Verification of achievements is needed, and this is why, here at Asendia, we’re helping eCommerce retailers calculate the carbon impact of each parcel going out for international delivery. 

Consumers want to see improvements made, and carbon footprints reduced. The key is to be clear about what’s been achieved and why it matters. Simple yet effective stickers on packaging – saying ‘carbon neutral delivery’, for example - can re-assure shoppers and help retailers build trust in the services they are offering. Increasingly, scannable QR codes on packaging can direct customers to information portals, where more detail about sustainability initiatives and achievements can be found. 

Transparency will be everything in the coming years. No one has cracked sustainability yet in eCommerce, but steps in the right direction will boost a brand’s perception of being authentic and responsible. If you have good news stories about greener delivery and packaging, tell it with pride.

Clara Philpin, head of strategic development, Asendia UK

For more information, visit www.asendia.co.uk/asendia-insights/new-global-research / www.asendia.com/resource/how-to-sell-direct