I learnt so much in the process – how our carbon footprint was calculated for sure, but it also helped me to gain insight into an area of the business I wasn’t so involved with, and to see just how complex our supply chain is. More importantly, I have started to question my lifestyle, my personal impact and to consider my own personal footprint. It has been a real joy working with Abbie and Jessica. Their knowledge and passion for the subject is impressive. I could not have done this without their continued support.
The retail space has evolved dramatically in the last 10 years. eCommerce has boomed, and a myriad of online players have entered the market and thrived, significantly outstripping traditional retailers. International cross border purchases are also on the rise, as consumers purchase from companies across the globe. However, this changing landscape has brought a new set of challenges for retailers. Today, consumers expect an item to appear at their doorstep at a click of a button which involves various modes of transportation and far more journeys to deliver the parcel leading to a hefty rise in carbon emissions. On the other hand, there is growing pressure on retailers to ramp up their sustainability agendas. To keep up with the changing customer expectations, retailers are now turning to their supply chain partners to ensure not only quick but also less carbon-intensive delivery options.
Ensuring continued success in the ever-changing logistics landscape
wnDirect, a UK based logistics company established in 2011, focuses on delivering international parcels for retailers. It has prospered in this dynamic retail space, providing innovative solutions for a range of well-established and growing online retail brands.
However, wnDirect has been quick in realising that to keep up with changing customer expectations and to continue to prosper in this space, integrating sustainability into its business agenda is essential. wnDirect’s ambition to make this happen was clear from our first meeting. The office was decked out with a sustainability initiative board, a herb garden had been planted in the plot of land outside, and employees have been quick to pick up on recycling initiatives.
Our analysis of wnDirect’s key energy sources showed their hard work had paid off with its employees’ carbon footprint 25% below that expected for a company of its size and structure.
The key challenge – quantifying the footprint of wnDirect’s extensive carriers network
The real challenge for wnDirect was understanding and improving the sustainability of its network. wnDirect does not own its fleet and instead uses an extensive network of best in class carrier partners across the globe. To measure the carbon footprint of this network required engaging with wnDirect’s carrier network to understand:
- exactly what route each partner was taking;
- where their hubs were located;
- what type of vehicles they were using and;
- the tonnes of goods delivered via each route
The whole experience has been a journey, literally, the journey of a parcel! The experience has been informative, educational, stressful, fun, maddening and frustrating! At times I just wanted to turn my back on the project, but I am so glad I didn’t…. It has been a real joy working with Abbie and Jessica. Their knowledge and passion for the subject is impressive. I could not have done this without their continued support and gentle chiding to push me onwards.
Mapping out wnDirect’s network and quantifying emissions across the transport chain
We worked alongside wnDirect to gather the necessary data and quantify its delivery carbon footprint. We identified the key initiatives to reduce emissions and established how to communicate these results to customers.
We began this process with wnDirect by mapping out their vast network, which operates globally. After identifying their most significant routes, we worked with the delivery teams to set up an approach which would allow us to collect key data from both internal stakeholders and their carriers to calculate their carbon footprint.
When we first started to work with Avieco, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I naively thought it was just a simple case of sending over our electricity bills and going from there. How wrong could I have been!
Through a collaborative process, we were able to map wnDirect’s key routes and quantify emissions across the transport chain from a range of transport types including planes, HGVs and electric sprinter vans.
The continued engagement from wnDirect meant we were able to ensure that 95% of their carbon footprint was calculated from actual rather than estimated data.
An impressive feat for a first carbon footprint calculation!
Identifying key areas to reduce emissions
From the analysis of wnDirect’s delivery carbon footprint, we found that the most material territories in terms of volume contribute very little to the overall carbon footprint. The analysis of the carbon footprint of a parcel per territory showed significant variation, for example, a parcel going to New Zealand has a carbon footprint over 200 times the size of a parcel going to France.
This helped us pinpoint key areas for wnDirect to look for opportunities to reduce their emissions. Focusing on destinations with the highest emissions per parcel we found that there were significant opportunities to reduce emissions by sending parcels via lower emission routes; either involving shorter distances via air or reducing the number of flights.
For some routes, wnDirect is already using the most efficient method of transportation, for example using double-decker HGVs for large trunking routes to Europe. Where opportunities are not present for emissions to be reduced directly, we worked with wnDirect to ensure they can still offer sustainable solutions to customers, for example by offsetting their emissions. These could include investment in renewable energy, biosequestration or energy-efficient projects.
Communicating the results to customers and stakeholders
With an increasing number of retailers selecting carriers based on their sustainability agendas, it was crucial that wnDirect can communicate these results to customers and help them make sustainable decisions.
For example, by understanding wherein its network there are opportunities to reduce carbon emissions, the data can be used to advise customers on the most sustainable routes, helping to expand sustainability initiatives beyond their own agenda.
To ensure all employees could be involved with wnDirect’s sustainability agenda we worked with wnDirect’s HR manager to communicate the results beyond a report, developing a visual infographic to keep all employees and stakeholders engaged.
We now have a document to showcase to the business and our partners that we take sustainability seriously, and moving forward will continually look for ways as to how we can negate our impact.
Since our work with wnDirect, they have been acquired by Asendia Group, a company renowned for putting sustainability at the core of their business. We believe this is a great opportunity for wnDirect to continue to thrive in setting a meaningful sustainability agenda and are excited to continue to see their work in making the logistics retail sector sustainable and dynamic going forward.
For more information, please contact:
Jessica Cresswell, Principal Consultant
Tel: 020 70480450