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Retailers' Powerful Role in a More Sustainable Last-Mile Delivery Retailers hold a lot of power in healing our planet from the damage that's already been done and in preventing further harm - and they can make significant changes by prioritizing sustainable last-mile deliveries.

By Mark Ang Edited by Chelsea Brown

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Choosing to prioritize sustainable practices is an important part of being a responsible citizen of our planet, but it's also smart business. Case in point: one in four consumers report that "they are planning to focus more on environmental issues and will pay more attention to social aspects in their shopping behavior." This means you can either be part of the sustainability movement and reach that 25% of consumers or risk losing out on their business altogether.

So, in response to altruistic calls for sustainability and consumer preferences, retailers have increasingly implemented green initiatives. For example, they may put energy-efficient lighting in place or aim to achieve an entirely neutral carbon footprint within a given period of time. This all helps, but can sustainability practices be extended to the logistics and fulfillment side as well? The answer is yes.

Incorporating a variety of sustainable practices

For starters, here are some business areas you can consider making more environmentally friendly:

  1. Take a look into your shipping provider's fleet: Is it made up of electric vehicles intended to achieve carbon negative trips? In 2021, there were an estimated 12 million electric vehicles in use, but that number is expected to rise closer to 54 million by 2025, making them more readily available to organizations everywhere. If you don't have a provider that uses electric vehicles, though, make sure to ask if they use carbon credits to offset emissions. Something is better than nothing, although an electric vehicle fleet is the best of all.

  2. Seek out logistics companies that make use of distributed networks: This allows merchants to store their goods in multiple places — and closer to the end customer — so products don't have to travel farther than they need to.

  3. Work with a logistics provider that supplies technology tracking: This should be done so that the sender and receiver can know, in real-time, when a shipment is arriving and if there are any problems. If you can maintain high levels of communication between both parties, you reduce the chance of a missed delivery, spoiled perishables or extra trips. It's an investment worth making; some 62% of fleets that use GPS tracking report a positive impact on their bottom line.

  4. Aim to be part of a circular supply chain and work with companies who are as well: This means using recyclable packaging or packaging made from recycled materials. Keep in mind some last-mile partners can help facilitate donating or recycling returned products that are non-reusable.

Related: It's Official: Customers Prefer Sustainable Companies

Work sustainability into your RFPs

Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are a useful tool in many areas of retail, and logistics is no exception. Still, many businesses don't realize they can incorporate environmentally conscious practices into their RFPs.

Including items from the list above in your RFP accomplishes two objectives: 1. It positions your company as the sustainable brand that it is, and 2. It ensures you ultimately work with a partner who is equally as environmentally conscious as you are.

Last-mile logistics, in particular, can pack a significant punch in terms of efficiency and emissions, whether positively or negatively. As such, remember that enterprises have the power to reshape industries by encouraging their partners to update their practices. A stand-out example of this is from IKEA. The global furniture and retail brand even posted its supplier code of conduct to set clear expectations for itself, its suppliers and providers. Simply put: Setting the standard of only working with eco-friendly providers allows you to make a major impact.

Retailers, in particular, hold a lot of power in healing our planet from the damage that's already been done and in preventing further harm — and they can make significant changes by prioritizing sustainable last-mile deliveries. When all is said and done, preserving the earth will require everyone in the ecosystem to work together with intentionality and purpose.

Related: 5 Ways to Transform Your Business into a Sustainable One

Mark Ang

CEO and Co-founder of GoBolt

Mark Ang is the CEO and Co-Founder of GoBolt, a technology company building the largest sustainable supply chain network. GoBolt provides a planet positive approach to logistics. The company is committed to providing carbon-neutral deliveries, setting the bar for a more viable future.

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