Research suggests 85 per cent of consumers would wait longer for a parcel delivery that helped cut congestion and air pollution
Online shoppers are prepared to wait longer for their delivery if it means cleaner air and less crowded streets, new research released this week suggests.
According to a survey of 1,000 people across the UK, Netherlands, and France by cross-border logistics firm B2C Europe, just 10 per cent of people said they would choose an express delivery of one to two days after it was explained that a shorter delivery window resulted in worse traffic and air pollution.
Some 85 per cent said they would choose a 'green delivery' that could take six to eight days to arrive, or a standard delivery where goods arrive within three to five days. Some five per cent said they would even pay extra for a green express delivery, if the additional €1 charge went to an environmental charity such as Greenpeace.
The rapid growth in internet shopping has led to a major uptick in the number of vans on the road over the last decade, with van numbers up 71 per cent since 1996. Nearly all delivery vans are diesel powered and have been widely blamed for contributing to dangerous level of air pollution in some cities.
Part of the problem comes down to inefficient delivery systems - figures from TfL suggest in London 39 per cent of vans are just one quarter full. If companies could better group deliveries so fuller vans could make fewer trips, urban air quality could quickly improve.
Some firms, such as online grocery retailer Ocado, already offer greener delivery slots which encourage shoppers to choose a delivery window when a driver is already in their area. But the practice is not yet widespread.
And with the survey suggesting that 58 per cent of consumers do not realise that swifter deliveries cause more environmental harm than standard ones, Rijk van Meekeren, CCO of B2C Europe, said retailers and delivery companies needed to do better at explaining to consumers the environmental impact of their choices.
"While it's really heartening to see that consumers in all three territories would forgo fast delivery if it meant less damage to the environment, these findings are not the end of the conversation," he said. "What our surveys are telling us is that, as an industry, we must not only be better at informing consumers about the environmental impact of their delivery decisions, but we must also evaluate trends towards faster and cheaper delivery as consumers look for eco-friendly alternatives. Ecommerce is a fast-growing market, but its future depends on the industry's ability to innovate and improve, particularly in sustainable delivery options."
In addition to new smart logistics technologies that seek to optimise delivery routes, a growing number of delivery firms are exploring the use of electric and fuel cell vehicles, which promise to slash air quality and fuel costs.
The survey uncovered high levels of concern from respondents about air quality and environmental issues, with 59 per cent expressing worries about air pollution from e-commerce deliveries, and 69 per cent saying they would be more inclined to buy from a retailer committed to sustainable practices.
Almost 60 per cent said they would also be willing to pay a deposit for packaging, which could be refunded once the packaging is returned via a local supermarket.
In related news, new rules announced yesterday by Brussels are set to make the city's public transport networks free for passengers on days of high air pollution to try and coax people out of their cars and onto greener transport routes.
From this summer, the city's buses, trams, metro and bike sharing network will be made free of charge after two consecutive days of poor air quality, where particulate matter exceeds an average of 51-70 micrograms per cubic metre.
The new rules will also see lower speed limits for cars and a ban on wood burning for stoves. Plans are also afoot to ban the most polluting cars from the city streets and electrify the bus network, as officials battle to cut air pollution levels and reduce traffic congestion.
As city authorities around the world seek to implement similar measures to tackle dangerous air pollution and informed customers express a growing interest in greener delivery models the pressure on the e-commerce and logistics sectors to embrace cleaner technologies looks set to intensify.
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