By Khaja Hussain

The e-commerce landscape has been dominated by a mantra: faster is better. As a passionate retail businessman, I’ve witnessed firsthand the societal pivot towards instant gratification. However, as we charge forward, a pertinent question looms over the industry: at what environmental cost does express shipping come?

The Rise of Online Shopping

According to the e-Shopper Barometer study, which scrutinises online purchasing patterns across 21 European countries, 10% of all purchases made in Europe are conducted online. This figure is on an upward trajectory, signifying a surge in delivery traffic and, by extension, a rise in emissions. The convenience of click-and-receive is shadowed by a carbon footprint that expands with every order fulfilled.

The Shift Towards Sustainability

In this digital buying boom, there’s an emerging counter-narrative. A growing contingent of online consumers is leaning towards sustainable options. Their environmental consciousness is prompting a pivotal shift, propelling logistics companies to invest in greener solutions, and many of the online selling sites are at the forefront of this evolution.

Strategies for Sustainable Logistics

One innovative approach to reduce failed deliveries — a significant pain point in urban logistics — is the implementation of parcel delivery points. As per Deloitte’s analysis, this strategy not only decreases CO2 emissions by up to 20% per package but also cuts delivery costs by 9%. It’s a win-win: the environment benefits and businesses save money.

Expert Insights

Antonio Iglesias, a luminary in logistics and supply chain management, asserts that slow delivery is gaining momentum. He challenges the industry’s preoccupation with speed, often at odds with cost optimisation and emission control. It’s a notion that we all should adopt; sustainability need not be at odds with efficiency.

Technological Innovations in Sustainability

Innovation lies at the heart of sustainable logistics. Take, for example, the recyclable pallet boxes, a leap forward from wooden pallets and carton wrappings. These durable, collapsible boxes can be used and reused for up to a decade, significantly reducing the environmental toll of shipping.

Choosing the Right Shipping Partner

In the quest for a sustainable shipping partner, Spring GDS emerges as a paragon. The company not only compensates for the emissions from every shipment but also constantly refines its routes to minimise its carbon footprint. Their commitment to sustainability is a symbolic reflection of the shift in consumer preference.

The Consumer’s Role in Eco-Friendly Shipping

The consumer’s growing environmental awareness is not a trend; it’s a transformation. In the digital age, shoppers are not only interested in the quality and cost of products but also their carbon footprint. This paradigm shift is evident in the increasing number of consumers who are willing to wait longer for their purchases if it means reducing their impact on the planet. This sentiment is reshaping the logistics industry, as companies must now align their operations with the values of their customer base to stay competitive and relevant.

The Economic Incentive for Sustainable Practices

The economic argument for sustainable shipping practices is becoming increasingly compelling. As fuel prices fluctuate and the world grapples with the effects of climate change, eco-friendly shipping is no longer just a moral choice but a financially prudent one. The waste reduction, the optimisation of routes, and the decrease in fuel consumption all contribute to cost savings in the long run. Moreover, companies that adopt green practices may benefit from government incentives, tax breaks, and an enhanced brand image that can translate into customer loyalty and market growth.

Global Efforts and Regulatory Influence

Globally, governments and international organisations are beginning to set standards and regulations that encourage or mandate more sustainable shipping practices. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), for example, has set ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels. These regulatory frameworks push the industry towards innovation and efficiency, driving investment in alternative fuels, energy-saving technologies, and operational improvements that reduce the environmental impact of shipping.

The Sustainability of Urban Deliveries

Urban areas, with their dense populations and high demand for delivery services, are particularly challenging regarding sustainable shipping. The “last mile” of delivery is the most complex and costly part of the shipping process, and it has the highest environmental impact. To address this, companies are exploring electric delivery vehicles, cargo bikes, and drones as alternatives to traditional delivery vans. These solutions not only reduce emissions but can also navigate congested streets more efficiently, thereby reducing delivery times and improving the customer experience.

The Future of Packaging

Packaging is another critical factor in sustainable shipping. The e-commerce boom has led to increased packaging waste, with cardboard boxes and plastic fillers often ending up in landfills. Forward-thinking companies invest in biodegradable, compostable, or even edible packaging solutions. These innovative materials can significantly reduce waste and pollution while protecting products during transit.

The Vision for 2023 and Beyond

As we venture into 2023, the momentum towards sustainable shipping is accelerating. It’s a year that holds promise for significant strides in reducing the environmental impact of our global delivery networks. With the concerted efforts of consumers, businesses, and regulators, we are paving the way for a future where sustainable shipping is not just an alternative but the standard. Multiple online retail store companies are committed to this vision, investing in technologies and partnerships that prioritise the planet without compromising performance.


As we gaze into the future, it’s clear that the narrative around shipping is being rewritten. The question is no longer whether sustainable shipping can outpace express shipping but how swiftly we can transition to these eco-friendly practices without sacrificing service quality. With various companies leading the charge, 2024 may be remembered as the year when sustainability became the new express.

Khaja Hussain is a retail technology expert and businessman with over two decades of experience in the retail sector. His insights are shaped by his passion for enhancing customer experiences through technological advancements.