Keeping up with consumers’ always-shifting priorities has never been easy. But when it comes to delivery, their current preferences can seem downright contradictory: Shoppers want their purchases to arrive exactly when they want (often very quickly), but they also want that delivery to be eco-friendly. Eighty-five percent of people worldwide have shifted their purchase behavior over the past five years toward making consciously sustainable choices, according to a survey by Simon-Kucher & Partners. 

Fortunately, those values are not as incompatible as they might appear. While the last mile of a retail delivery accounts for a big chunk of an order’s environmental impact, there’s a lot you can do to reduce delivery emissions and improve sustainability — without sacrificing speed. Here are six ideas to make your last mile logistics fast and green.

Boosting last mile sustainability

There are many points along the way where you can chip away at the carbon footprint of your delivery network. Together they can add up to big wins for sustainability.

1. Stage inventory closer to customers.

Forecasting is more accurate than ever, thanks to advanced visibility, and that makes it possible to predict demand more granularly. As a result, retailers can now leverage dark stores, in-store fulfillment operations and micro-fulfillment centers to position inventory closer to buyers. 

Fulfilling delivery orders from nearby locations not only shortens delivery times, but it also reduces the emissions associated with that delivery. Consulting firm Accenture found that moving to local fulfillment options can lower last mile emissions between 17% and 26% through 2025.

2. Offset last mile carbon emissions elsewhere in your business.

Inventory typically undergoes a long journey before reaching the fulfillment center, often traveling via a combination of water, rail, road and air. All those legs represent real opportunities to reduce carbon emissions and support retailers’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals, helping to offset some impact of last mile delivery. 

Retailers can work closely with their suppliers to achieve these reductions. According to Harvard Business Review, requiring suppliers to set reduction targets and measure and disclose progress — and including sustainability measures in contracts — are strategies to reduce overall supply chain emissions. Incentives and support, such as financing for equipment upgrades, are enabling larger businesses to help their often-smaller suppliers to reach this mutually beneficial goal. 

3. Leverage electric vehicles for last mile delivery.

Electric vehicles are a great fit for last mile delivery, with their shorter driving range, low carbon impact and elimination of fuel costs. Major brands investing in EV fleets include Walmart, Dominos and Amazon

The downside of EV is all the upfront planning and investment it takes to purchase the vehicles, then manage charging and other aspects of their use to ensure availability. Parcel companies are investing in EV too, but those costs will inevitably be passed on to customers.

Roadie’s new sustainability offering, available in select markets, enables retailers to sidestep all of that. Roadie Green™ leverages a national network of independent drivers and the environmentally efficient EV and hybrid vehicles they already own, so you have instant access to a low-carbon fleet. 

4. Onboard and market greener delivery options.

As demand for last mile delivery increases, so are the delivery options for retailers. Consider offering a range of choices to meet the different priorities a customer might have for one order over another. For less urgently needed items, you might offer to delay a delivery a few days until it fits in with a route with other nearby delivery locations. Meanwhile, you may still offer ultrafast delivery for things your customers need right away. 

Roadie Green™ is an eco-friendly option that enables same-day delivery in select cities with minimum batches of fifteen deliveries per pickup location, per day. Leveraging Roadie’s platform for your last mile also gives you access to urgent and next-day local solutions for customers with different priorities.

5. Batch and route orders.

Using routing and batching software helps create the most efficient last mile delivery route to meet orders. Reducing total miles driven has an even bigger impact on emissions than electric fleets.

Roadie’s software has route optimization already baked in. It adjusts suggested routes dynamically throughout the day as factors like traffic and weather impact road conditions, quickly informing drivers of a more efficient path. As artificial intelligence is increasingly infused into route optimization software, it will learn from every run to make future routing even more optimal. 

Roadie analyzed the impact of Roadie Green™ route consolidation on carbon emissions by looking at local next-day delivery from distribution centers (DCs) in Las Vegas. By delivering directly from DCs to end customers, a national ecommerce retailer was able to batch and route orders into stops of as many as 30 drops to improve delivery speed and efficiency — resulting in 80% fewer delivery miles driven. Every mile not driven meant 100% savings for that mile on carbon emissions, regardless of the vehicle type used to complete delivery.

6. Increase first-attempt delivery rates.

Having to try again to get an order delivered correctly not only disappoints the customer, it also drives costs and emissions way up. First-attempt delivery failures happen for several reasons, so it’s important to do some investigation to head off problems before they start. 

Strategies for success include using address verification on your ecommerce site and ensuring you give customers the chance to provide key information like gate codes or apartment numbers. Picking the right partner is another essential step. Choose delivery platforms with enough capacity in the markets where your customers are, and make sure they have the right equipment for the job, especially for oversize or fragile items.

Another key difference-maker is giving the customer an option to receive goods when it works best for them. Unlike parcel delivery services, Roadie enables you to offer your customers the chance to pick their delivery day and the time window that works for them. You can even notify the customer when the item is a few stops away, increasing the likelihood of successful first-time delivery.

Meeting sustainability demands

Consumer demand for both speed and sustainability doesn’t have to be as perplexing as it sounds. Rethinking where inventory is positioned, choosing sustainable options across the supply chain including electric vehicles and making use of advanced software like route optimization can make a substantial impact on carbon consumption. So can aligning with partners who share your sustainability values — and deliver on them. 

The Roadie Green™program offers a fast, efficient, local same-day and next-day delivery solution that’s also environmentally sustainable. Learn more about the Roadie Green™ program here.