carbon footprint

3 Ways Your 3PL Can Help You Lower Your Carbon Footprint

It’s no secret that traditionally, eCommerce brands contribute to carbon emissions throughout the world in some capacity, especially when it comes to delivering products to their customers. 

According to a study conducted and shared by the World Economic Forum, transit emissions from last-mile delivery carriers in cities are anticipated to increase by 30 percent in 100 cities across the globe. Transit emissions are also expected to climb from 19 million tonnes in 2019 to 25 million tonnes by 2030. 

Consumers are on the lookout for companies selling eco-friendly products and enacting more sustainable fulfillment practices. In fact, not only are 78 percent of consumers more likely to purchase a product if it is labeled as environmentally friendly, but 75 percent of millennials have shared that they would pay more to purchase products that are better for the environment. 

With these thoughts in mind, many direct-to-consumer (DTC) eCommerce brands are seeking out ways to lessen their impact on the environment; to be a force for good, and to protect the natural world around us. It’s not just good for business, it’s good for all of us. 

But when your business is shipping goods to customers across the country and the world, transit emissions can be hard to avoid. So, how can your third-party logistics (3PL) provider help you lower your carbon footprint? Here are three ways you can make a difference right now. 

Comparing Transit Emissions of eCommerce and Traditional Retail


Many believe that online shopping and DTC shipping are better for the environment compared to shopping in traditional, in-person retail stores. Politico pointed to the results of one study that stated that eCommerce is 17 percent more carbon-efficient compared to traditional retail. This reasoning makes sense because of a few factors:

  • Fewer people making shopping trips in gas-powered vehicles
  • Higher energy consumption demands in traditional storefronts (as compared to fulfillment centers and warehouses)

But this might not necessarily be true if you account for a few contributing factors that may have been omitted, including the amount and volume of packaging and the challenges of last-mile deliveries. With these factors, plus the transit emissions of delivery vehicles, it makes sense for eCommerce and DTC brands to think about choosing more sustainable fulfillment practices. 

1. Expand Shipping Options


One thing that your 3PL partner can do is to add a variety of shipping options that reach different customers in different ways based on their location. For example, OceanX has secured technology to build out logic that supports this kind of functionality. 

With this logic, DTC brands can employ the service of various carriers depending on where the customer is located. This means that rather than employing large, big box carriers who send all of their packages through one or more distribution centers after pickup, smaller regional carriers can deliver packages more efficiently. 

Through the employment of a network of carriers, you can reduce carbon emissions without sacrificing quick delivery times. The more complex your shipping matrix, the easier it is to find carriers that are well-suited to meet the delivery needs of each customer, avoiding excess transit emissions. 

2. Explore Regional Providers


Especially in larger markets with heavy traffic like New York and California, there are a plethora of regional carriers available to supplement local order deliveries. In these larger markets, DTC brands can employ regional carriers to pick orders up directly from the facility and deliver them straight to the customers’ doorsteps. 

By working outside the traditional UPS, USPS, or FedEx carrier models—or by adding to these models with smaller regional carriers—you can avoid excess stops along the delivery route to streamline your delivery paths and make them more efficient.

Ulta Beauty is one such brand that is employing the services of multiple shipping carriers, including UPS and USPS, but also smaller regional carriers like OnTrac, LaserShip, United Delivery Service, and International Bridge to make their delivery processes more affordable and better for the environment.

These regional carriers only add up to somewhere between 6 and 8 percent of the nation’s parcel delivery market, but can make a big impact on a DTC brand’s sustainability efforts. 

And it may take more than one smaller regional carrier. Each one may meet different delivery objectives, including:

  • The price of shipping
  • The delivery timeline
  • The available services and how they serve your brand and unique products

3. Reduce or Remove the Option to Air


Aviation accounts for 11.6 percent of transport emissions, adding almost 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. This amounts to about 2.5 percent of all global carbon dioxide emissions total

One thing that many DTC brands can do to have a positive impact on their carbon emissions is providing customers with the choice of more sustainable shipping options. One way to achieve this is to pass the decision onto customers and allow them to opt out of shipping via air. Some of OceanX’s clients have removed the ability to ship their products via air travel completely so that the option to ship orders overnight is no longer available. 

Either way, the best approach is to make these decisions transparent; to let them know the reasoning behind these options. By providing this visibility to customers, not only are you helping them make educated choices to protect the planet, but you are also exceeding customer expectations by sharing your sustainability efforts. 

This isn’t just a passing trend; it’s something consumers are seeking out. It was reported in a Forbes article that 9 out of 10 business leaders stated that consumers hold them accountable for their environmental impact, which is more than shareholders, employees, or even government regulations. Consumers want to see that your brand is making sustainable choices. Reducing or removing the option to ship orders via air is an effective, highly-visible way to accomplish this. 

OceanX: Your Eco-Friendly 3PL Partner


At OceanX, we’re committed to helping our clients implement sustainable practices at every stage of fulfillment, including with the carriers they select and their last-mile delivery practices. But we also offer key insights in creating sustainable packaging, integrating data-based product forecasting to eliminate product waste, recycling products, and more. We integrate eco-friendly practices throughout our fulfillment centers, from our electric forklifts to the solar panels that cover the roof of our North Carolina facility, and beyond. 

To learn more about how we can help you lower your carbon footprint in every step of your fulfillment journey, connect with the OceanX team today.