What Is Sustainable Shipping?

Sustainable shipping is a way of approaching shipping and warehouse practices with the primary goal of lessening the environmental impact of moving goods. Some sustainable shipping practices include:

  • More efficient packaging to reduce waste
  • Recycled or compostable packaging
  • Aggregating shipments so customers receive packages on a reduced schedule
  • Decreasing time in transit (TNT) to lower carbon emissions
  • Using electric final mile delivery vehicles
  • Offsetting carbon emissions created by shipments

Depending on the resources available to your warehouse business and the packaging and shipping needs of your products, you may choose to focus on any number of these practices to make your shipping more sustainable.

Why Does Sustainable Shipping Matter?

Shopping patterns, and therefore shipping patterns, have changed dramatically since 2020. The number of final mile delivery vehicles on the road is expected to increase 36%, and greenhouse gas emissions are projected to increase by 30% overall by 2030 – all due to the ecommerce boom.

Then comes the added complication of reverse logistics. eCommerce return rates are sometimes 35% higher than traditional retail. And ecommerce shoppers expect options for returns– from scheduled carrier pick-ups, to in-store returns, to drop-off centers. Whatever the transit mode, ecommerce returns, and resale activity is estimated to create 10 billion unnecessary transportation trips each year.

What’s more, consumers care about sustainable shipping. In fact, 88% of consumers say that sustainability is an important consideration when they’re making a purchase decision, and 66% say that sustainability has become more important to them as a result of the pandemic.

Making shipping more sustainable, then, matters for the future of our planet, and it likely matters to your customers. Shared values can drive brand affinity and increase customer lifetime value (CLV) at a time when customer acquisition costs are historically high.

How to Make Shipping More Sustainable

There are three primary ways that businesses of all sizes can make shipping more sustainable:

    1. Decreasing their reliance on air shipments. Air shipments emit six times more carbon than ground shipments of the same weight. So, unless it’s an emergency, build in more transportation time to reduce your carbon footprint.
    2. Decreasing their time in transit (TNT). In short, the more time inventory spends on a delivery vehicle, the more carbon it emits. Businesses can easily decrease the TNT of their final mile deliveries by distributing inventory closer to their end customers. Merchants who are currently fulfilling all of their orders from a single warehouse could potentially lower their TNT by almost one and a half days by simply adding a second warehouse on the other coast.
    3. Offsetting carbon emissions. Purchasing carbon offsets is a simple and impactful way for merchants to make shipping more sustainable. Verified carbon credits support reforestation and forest preservation efforts that neutralize carbon output through carbon drawdown.