Reducing Retail’s Environmental Impact


Logistics innovations

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering.” These were the words echoed by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg. According to some environmental experts, the temperature of the entire globe fluctuates between 34.7 to 35.6°F (1.5 to 2°C), with the oceans alone soaking the heat equivalent of five Hiroshima atomic bombs dropping into the water every second.

Human activities threaten plant and animal species with extinction and contribute to unprecedented weather events such as heat waves, droughts, and storms. A recently released IEA analysis report gives us a glimpse of humans’ impact on the environment. The report indicated that as the world economy rebounded powerfully from the COVID-19 pandemic, global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rose by 6% in 2021 to 36.3 billion tonnes. This happens to be the highest ever level recorded.

Retail’s Consequence on Emissions

The retail industry plays a significant role in the world’s decarbonization commitments. Emissions are segmented into Scope 1, 2, and 3. Scope 1 and 2 emissions are emitted directly by companies in their operations and indirectly through the purchase of energy. Moving to scope 2, this includes emissions across the value chain and are out of the retailer’s control. Scope 3 emissions account for up to 80% of the total carbon footprint for most companies. And for home and fashion, scope 3 emissions can account for up to 98% of their footprint.

In 2016, only a few major retailers set science-based targets to add credibility and accountability to their sustainability efforts. Yet, five years later, in 2021, more than 65 global merchants joined forces to tackle climate change in the race to zero gas emissions by 2050.

Retail’s Initiatives Gain Momentum

Most retailers are now developing a climate strategy that includes a pathway to decarbonization and the funding sources to pay for it. For instance, global retail giant IKEA has committed to zero-carbon fuels for container shipping by 2040, meaning shipping vendors directly linked to their value chain will also need to adopt such measures.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) recently partnered with six key industry players to launch a technology challenge. The hope is to propel innovation, improving the performance and efficiency of next-generation cold-climate heat pumps. In addition, to motivate more companies to utilize carbon-footprint data, in early May 2021, carbon traded at about €50 per metric ton on the EU Emissions Trading System.

Potential Solutions To Retail Emissions

Considering the momentum of change and the emerging clarity of costs along the value chain, merchants need to comprehend how the transition to a low-carbon economy will affect them. Investors play a double role in retail’s shift to a low-carbon footprint by appealing for an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategy from the retailers in their portfolio.

An excellent example of such an approach was recently utilized by BlackRock CEO Larry Fink when he requested all companies in which the firm invests to outline and report on their sustainability efforts. As a result, most retailers are now actively laying the foundation for a decarbonization strategy by:

  • Linking public-sector initiatives on decarbonization.
  • Developing and spearheading relevant industry partnerships.
  • Generating emissions transparency at a product or subcategory level.
  • Engaging key stakeholders on decarbonization strategy and planning.
  • Piloting green products and developing new versions that utilize decarbonized materials.
  • Integrating sustainability into customer research by studying how much people are willing to pay for sustainable products.

Beware of the Last-Mile

The surge in last-mile delivery vehicles is contributing to traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. However, supply chain emissions in retail typically make up 90% of a company’s total emissions.

There has been much interest in improving medium and long-haul transportation efficiency. From hydrogen-powered ships to electric trucks, the emissions from shipping products over vast distances is expected to reduce over the coming decades. But, last-mile delivery efficiency improvements are lagging. Factor in an expected 30% increase in total last-mile deliveries according to the World Economic Forum, we will be taking two steps forward and one step back.

Solving the last-mile delivery problem will not be easy. However, one concept has proven successful in countries such as Poland, Ireland, and England. Smart Parcel Lockers are reducing and even eliminating last-mile delivery while providing a safe, secure, and convenient alternative for the consumer.

Smart Lockers are devices that automate the deposit, storage, and retrieval of items. In addition to providing an effective last-mile delivery alternative, Smart Lockers can also be programmed to accept retail returns, serve as a communal exchange location, and offer parcel redirection to reduce second and third delivery attempts.

Final Thoughts

With intelligent software running behind the scenes, Smart Lockers provide unique functionality to reduce unnecessary parcel movements. For example, pickups may be triggered only when a predetermined number of parcels have been deposited. Conversely, delivery deposits may occur only when a critical mass of packages have been identified for a specific location.  Additionally, delivery and pickups can be completed during times when there is less traffic, reducing congestion and eliminating emissions with an all EV fleet.

Smart Lockers will become an integral part of the push to reduce retail logistics’ environmental impact on the environment. And we are excited to lead the way in North America.

To learn more about how your organization can maximize Smart Lockers to reduce cost, increase revenue, augment your brand, and delight your customers, contact the ParcelPort team online by visiting, email at or calling 1-800-818-0870.