50 million parcel shipments. The forecasts of the UNO Logistics employer on orders during this week of Black Friday exceed 30% than last year’s deliveries.
An average of 3.5 million per day reflecting the e-commerce boom of the covid era. More purchases per inhabitant with a clear requirement: that they arrive as soon as possible and without shipping costs. Prerogatives that parcel companies struggle to make a reality in the face of the great competition that has been installed in the logistics sector.
But this comfort has a high price, both for the business fabric of our country and for all citizens. On the one hand, the demand for greater speed squeezes parcel companies due to the high cost of fulfilling this task and the free delivery of shipments suffocates SMEs, which cannot survive on these margins.
And on the other, this consumerism, especially on dates like Black Friday, increases the carbon footprint that threatens to irreparably damage the environment.
For several years, thousands of experts from various areas (parcel companies, universities, environmental associations, etc.) have invited society to reflect on the importance of promoting a sustainable consumption habit, and this implies modifying the way in which we shop by Internet and the shipping option that we select so that our packages arrive at our house.
“We have gotten used to having things in the moment. We must be aware that this has consequences for our environment.
Not everything is urgent, but taking care of the planet, yes ”, explains Elena Fernández, deputy director of International Relations, head of the Department of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability of Correos. The first step, explains the specialist, is to know what happens when we click on the fastest shipping option in an online store .
Although we have become accustomed to buying at any time and at any time of the day (one in five Americans does so when they are in the bathroom, according to research from the University of California), the logistics management of our orders obeys certain times and Very marked schedules so that parcel companies can weave effective delivery routes.
For years, online storesThey warned that buying a product (normally) after 6:00 p.m. could take another day to arrive at your door, since these businesses sent all orders for the day to the logistics centers, which then distributed them by homes.
Delivery times, by then, were around the week, with special payments for faster shipments. Acceptable circumstance for these companies. That has been broken: the normal time has been set at two days, and even 24 and sometimes 12 hours.
This desired speed of customers forces stores and delivery companies to skip those time slots and use half-filled vans or trucks to meet delivery times.
“When making an urgent shipment, we have to be aware that a greater number of vehicles are needed, since you cannot wait to receive more cargo to fill all the vans. And the technologies chosen to transport these express deliveries are not the same. that less CO 2 emits “, says Fernández.
Like most experts, Elena Fernández, Deputy Director of International Relations, Head of the Department of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability of Correos, It is clear that the massification of shipments is a severe blow to the welfare state in large cities (noise, traffic jams, pollution …).
For this reason, Correos has been working for years to transform its fleet to guarantee responsible and environmentally friendly shipments. It already has a thousand electric vehicles and five CNG (hybrids) in circulation, and hopes to incorporate another 200 electric vehicles and another 70 hybrids by the end of this year.
“It is possible to send a 100% electric rate to Barcelona. With current technology, we connect our [communication] network with the railway stations and, within 72 hours, almost any 100% electrical connection can be made ”, explains Fernández.
The expert adds that it is very important that customers are aware that excessive speed must be put aside and bet on electricity alternatives and sustainable shipments.
In fact, Correos already offers on its website, with the possibility of choosing Responsible Shipping , an option in which the company prioritizes above all a sustainable management of the order, but without losing efficiency and security.
“Giving up immediacy allows consolidating shipments, achieving maximum vehicle efficiency by bringing them to full load and reducing emissions per shipment,” explains Fernández.
This point not only affects the economy of companies (doubling logistics spending in several years with the same profit margins as five years ago is financially unviable), but it can affect our health. In fact, air pollution in large cities caused 92,672 premature deaths during the first decade of the millennium, according to the latest data analyzed in 2019 by the DKV Observatory for Health and the Environment.
Figures that indicate a period of time before the e-commerce boom and the growth of mass shipments, so in all probability the emissions are bigger now and the consequences, predictably, much worse.
Hence the importance of everyone knowing how to choose how to buy. Miguel Jaller, an expert on sustainable transport at the University of California, does not doubt that it is customers who must give companies more flexibility.
“With a five-day lead time, [companies] can wait for all products to arrive from different destinations and consolidate all shipments into, say, a full truck,” Jaller explains of the great fuel and management savings. that can be won with delivery times of one week.
Some companies have already added a tab in their Green Shipping or Responsible Shipping options ,with which it is committed to send it in a sustainable way in a longer delivery time.
“Receiving a product in 24 hours or even in 12 hours does not have a significant impact on our day to day life. However, it does have a significant impact on the environment,” says Fernández.
Another of the workhorses of packaging companies and online stores (and that also seriously affects the environment) are returns. In fact, in recent years these have grown by around 10% during the week of Black Friday, according to estimates by UNO Logística.
It is possible to think that this year they will increase due to mobility restrictions and the decrease in commerce in physical stores (up to 27% less sales, according to data from the cashbank companyiGraal, belonging to Global Savings Group).
To this is added that more and more companies offer a free returns service and also in a short period of time. This increases the use of vehicles, which generate more traffic problems and more emissions.
“Consumers have to realize that a return doubles the CO 2 emissions of a normal order. In the US alone, total returns generate a total of 15 million tons per year. In Europe the data is similar,” he warns Fernandez.
There are options to reduce this reverse logistics. For clothes, the simplest is to look for size charts on the Internet, that is, a comparative index of measurements according to the brand or store where you want to buy to get it right the first time.
There are companies that already incorporate these guides in their web stores. Of course, the option of buying the same garment in different sizes, keeping the right one and returning the rest should be discarded. For other products such as electronic devices, it is advisable to go to the physical establishment to test it and then buy it from home.
It is useless to follow the steps above if we do not investigate where the products we buy come from. That is, if they are manufactured in a sustainable way and with fair working conditions. The coloring textile plants of developing countries that use products that are harmful to the environment and child labor are well known.
A business that does not stop growing because of excessive consumerism. In contrast, there are trends such as the slowlife movement(slow life, in Spanish) that was born to promote a less busy way of life and with a more sustainable supply, with products from local businesses (or fair market) and without accumulation of unnecessary objects.
“We must not forget that this type of purchase not only improves the economy of a country, but is also more respectful of the environment. An international shipment is three times more polluting than a national one,” warns Fernández.
On the other hand, environmental associations and representatives of the European Commission have created Green Friday, an alternative to Black Friday that seeks to encourage citizens to consume less compulsive during these days.
They encourage you to spend that day in the field, with your family or, in the case of buying, to have it done in establishments with a sustainable business model. There are also other similar solidarity-based initiatives, such as Giving Tusday, which proposes to allocate financial or material aid to social causes on the first Wednesday in December.