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Electric delivery fleets key to decarbonising supply chain

Ensuring sustainability in delivery is crucial for both the environment and the viability of businesses, writes John Gillan

As Europe faces another year of unpredictable weather, it is clear that climate change is having an increasing impact on daily life. Many of the current systems in place, from supply chains to flight patterns, will have to change to support sustainable cities in the future. As part of this shift, businesses are looking for ways to become more sustainable, with both consumers and regulators demanding more.

Meanwhile, the demand for delivery services is only set to increase. More and more people are opting for groceries delivered directly to their door or treating themselves to a takeaway on a Friday night. With demand increasing, delivery is becoming an important avenue for restaurants and shops to reach customers. As a result, there are now more delivery drivers on the road than ever before.

With all of this in mind, ensuring sustainability in delivery is crucial for both the environment and the viability of businesses. In recent research conducted by Stuart, one-quarter of customers said they would actively switch retailers over the lack of a sustainable delivery option. It is clear that more sustainable fleets are the way forward. Electric vehicles (EVs) will be central to building sustainable supply chains, and achieving net zero commitments without impacting the volume or speed of deliveries.

Sustainable delivery
Sustainable delivery is becoming increasingly important not just for the environment but also for business

But how can businesses under cost pressure meet the sustainable demand? What role do independent couriers have in achieving this vision? Can being sustainable and profitable go hand in hand?

Supporting courier partners to make the switch

The most effective way to champion sustainable delivery is to support couriers to switch to EVs. While at the surface this may seem like a simple switch, there are challenges ahead.

For many couriers, transitioning to EVs may be difficult due to steep upfront costs. To remove this hurdle, both last-mile logistics companies and EV providers must incentivise couriers to make the switch through financial support such as discounts, subsidies and lease arrangements. Policies such as these make transitioning to EVs more accessible to all couriers and encourage them to retire older, more polluting vehicles in favour of more modern, efficient, and sustainable alternatives.

There are also financial benefits to be earned through  switching to EVs. As a more sustainable form of transport, EVs will enable couriers to meet ever-tightening emissions standards in urban centres and avoid fines in the future against non-compliant vehicles. Finally, charging EVs is more cost-effective than traditional gasoline, especially as fuel costs remain volatile.

In the long term, electric fleets will be more resilient and cost-effective, and enable independent couriers to work in urban areas as regulations evolve and fuel prices remain unstable.

Collaboration is key

The sustainable transition is not down to one person, sector or organisation. The responsibility lies across industry stakeholders. Business leaders must work together to advance sustainability efforts, and actively choose partners that have robust sustainability offerings. Building sustainable supply chains is crucial to reducing overall carbon emissions.

The most effective way to champion sustainable delivery is to support couriers to switch to EVs

The public sector must also be aligned with this goal to make EVs a feasible option for couriers and businesses. Charging points can be few and far between in urban spaces, meaning drivers sometimes must go from point to point to find chargers, wasting precious time on a tight delivery schedule.

Governments must work to establish convenient and reliable access to charging points in urban areas and beyond. Cities still have a long road ahead to build the necessary infrastructure, requiring significant investment and public support. Policies such as Ultra-Low-Emissions-Zones certainly make EVs a more favourable option—if the proper infrastructure is there to help people make this transition.

As we know, this has been a difficult time for small businesses in the UK and other market. Inflation, rising running costs, supply chain issues, and a labour market under pressure mean that the sector is struggling. If governments are committed to sustainability goals, they must step in to ease some of this burden and encourage more eco-friendly practices. Incentives in the form of tax breaks and subsidies for EV adoption can make sustainable options more accessible to small businesses and promote larger-scale switches.

Looking ahead

As climate change continues to loom ever larger, many questions remain. How can we build more responsible systems? What sacrifices will we need to make to address these issues? How can individuals, companies, and governments make the changes needed to meet climate targets? While there is no simple answer to these questions, the solution will require governments, businesses, and individuals to come together and make long-lasting decisions that build a more sustainable world.

Future urban centres will need to be able to provide the amenities and conveniences that they do today, but in a sustainable way. Individuals are becoming more aware of carbon footprints in every aspect of life, including online deliveries. EVs are a part of solving this puzzle. Encouraging more businesses to use EVs in their fleets is an essential step towards overall decarbonisation.

As electric and low-emission vehicles are becoming more commonplace and accessible, EV integration still presents challenges. With the right infrastructure, business engagement, and support to drive wider adoption of EVs, these changes are not only feasible, they are inevitable. With collective effort, we can begin building tomorrow’s cities.

About the author: John Gillan is UK General Manager at Stuart


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