Modern Retail

What is green fulfilment and how can you achieve it?

Green fulfilment

Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious about the impact that delivery can have on the environment.

At a time where 80% of shoppers want same day delivery, 51% of those aged between 16 and 34 are more likely to shop with a retailer that has made consistent efforts to be sustainable. This conflict between offering quick delivery and sustainable methods of transportation has left retailers with a balancing act on their hands.

There are opportunities to reduce environmental impact throughout the supply chain, many of which do not require much investment.

We look at some of the best ways that you can implement green fulfilment practices:

Carbon offsetting for green fulfilment

There are many carbon offset programs available, meaning retailers can invest in projects that reduce carbon emissions, compensating for those produced by delivery processes.

Etsy was the first global ecommerce brand to offset 100% of its emissions from shipping in 2019, setting a precedent for others in the industry to follow.

Environmental projects that can offset carbon emissions, include forestry protection, tree planting, and even funding methods of generating clean energy, such as wind and solar power.

Electric vehicles

Electric home delivery vehicles are being used by more retailers, reducing the use of fossil fuels and the amount of carbon dioxide produced. John Lewis announced its mission to completely eliminate the use of fossil fuels for its 4,800-vehicle fleet by 2030, saving around 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.

Packaging

Retailers can re-think their packaging options to cut out single-use plastics and minimise waste wherever possible. This can be done by sourcing suitable packaging that can be reused or recycled, as well as using branding to educate customers on the ways it can be utilised or disposed of.

Streamlining operations

Looking at the efficiency of existing fulfilment operations is a great way to reduce carbon emissions. While it may take time and money to set up, designing a strategic approach can make green fulfilment much more simple, as well as bringing long-term financial benefits.

By grouping orders, having specific pick-up locations, or planning delivery routes, retailers can reduce the cost of deliveries, saving unnecessary emissions as well as drivers’ time. As an example, offering reduced price delivery for time slots when a delivery van is already in a customer’s area is a great initiative to encourage more eco-friendly delivery.

Environmentally friendly storage

It’s not only delivery processes that can be re-designed. Storage and warehousing plays a large role in retailers’ impact on the environment. Whether you manage your own warehousing, or outsource it, small changes can make a big difference.

Methods of reducing emissions from storage and distribution facilities include using efficient lighting and clean energy-powered electricity. For those that don’t manage their own warehousing and distribution centres, requesting more environmentally friendly processes, or switching to those that invest into reducing their carbon footprint, can be a great idea.

Green fulfilment and eco-friendly initiatives for retail

Retailers making a difference

The Good Retail Awards 2021 highlighted some of the retailers making a difference in the industry. Here are some of the great initiatives that they are showcasing.

Harts of Stur
As well as recycling over 300 tonnes of wooden pallets, cardboard, plastic and other materials each year, Harts of Stur began reusing cartons and boxes to ship orders to customers, as well as sourcing a 100% biodegradable alternative to polystyrene chips. Additional initiatives include installing LED lighting, an air source heat pump system and solar panels.

Small Stuff UK
Small Stuff has swapped to 100% renewable energy, making continuous improvements to the ways that they work. Continuing their mission to be as environmentally and socially sustainable as possible, they are set to implement a circular system of buying back clothing, with the aim of having zero waste by 2022.

Leaf and Ground
Leaf and Ground has a commitment to recycling and low mileage, locally sourced, ethically produced products. Reusing pallets, cardboard boxes and many other materials, Leaf and Ground has significantly cut down the amount of retail packaging used.

Pure Bundle
Pure Bundle encourages a lower carbon footprint, allowing customers to enjoy fashion that already exists. Educating customers on the importance of sustainability, they send orders to customers in reusable packaging.

Aesthetic Laundry
Aesthetic Laundry operates a ‘made to order’ business model, keeping waste to a minimum. They source 95% of their fabric within the UK to keep their carbon footprint low and use compostable mailing bags to send orders to customers.

True Vintage
True Vintage has overhauled its internal practices to be as green as possible. Partnering with innovative businesses like Ecologi to offset carbon emissions, they also sell clothing manufactured locally, to reduce the impact of transit.

The English Soap Company
The English Soap Company makes products on the premises from raw materials, sourcing ingredients that have a low impact on the environment, as well as employing local people to reduce the amount of travel needed. They have designed products that require minimal protection in transit, as well as reducing the amount of waste by reinventing their packaging.

Click here to read more from Modern Retail’s June 2021 Guide to Fulfilment.

Subscribe to Modern Retail's Weekly Newsletter

Holly Worthington

Holly brings a wealth of experience in both print and digital publishing. As Modern Retail's Content Editor, Holly is passionate about helping independent retailers to thrive in today's ever-changing market.