The term "e-commerce," which stands for "electronic commerce," describes the exchange of products and services via the internet. It has completely revolutionized how consumers and businesses shop by removing geographical constraints and offering a convenient online marketplace. Moreover, the fundamental feature of e-commerce is overcoming geographical constraints and is achieved through systematic transportation logistics. Are these transportation logistics really sustainable or whether e-commerce is sustainable or not? Are the big e-commerce giants really concealing something from us? And if all of this is true in their manner then are there any ways to make e-commerce rides greener?
The Indian e-commerce logistics market is expected to reach $11.5 billion by 2027, with e-commerce giants and retailers partnering with third-party providers to reduce operational costs. Road transportation, which accounts for the largest share of the India e-commerce logistics market, currently contributes 85% of the sector, accounting for 64% of freight transportation in 2019. Online delivery stages, including warehouse to distribution centers, can increase carbon emissions, particularly if powered by fossil fuels, and the increasing popularity of fast shipping options can exacerbate these emissions.The rise in individualized deliveries, like same-day or next-day shipping, can increase road traffic and emissions as more vehicles travel to deliver small packages to households. E-commerce transactions often involve returns & replacements, requiring additional transportation and packaging, thereby increasing the environmental footprint of the process.Usually, the e-commerce delivery agents use vehicles powered by petrol and diesel which lead to amplified ecological pollution. So, it can be analyzed that the transportation logistics are not at all green and further availability of features to achieve a competitive edge like fast delivery, return shipment & replacement policies have added to the menace of augmented environmental degradation. We, as consumers, are clearly choosing convenience over environmental stewardship.
We often hear e-commerce giants advertising eco-friendly packaging in their course of business. Usually, the phrase “eco-friendly packaging” is accentuated on the packaging of these giants. They utilize this as a leverage to present their environmental concern and attract consumers. But, what about their transportation logistics? No e-commerce platform ever talks about their transportation logistics, which serves as the backbone of their business. They never delve into the concept of sustainable transportation and rather downplay their weakness. This act of neglecting shortcomings saves them from various consumers’ queries thus, helping them sustain their market position. They aren't trying to improve it or even present it to their customers, but they aren't concealing it from them either.
Now that we know that the issue of transportation logistics is real and leading to environmental decline, the question of whether there are any ways to combat this situation troubles us. As quoted by Napoleon Hill , “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit." The problem of anti-environmental transportation practices can be addressed through conscious approaches. The primary way is to opt for greener vehicles. Vehicles powered by CNGs and biofuels should be encouraged. Furthermore, EVs are a new and safe alternative. The softwares which helps in optimizing the routes and making efficient routes which not only reduces the mileage but also curbs fuel consumption.Reduce the number of motor vehicles on the road by pooling transportation resources with other e-commerce businesses or logistics providers. Distribute resources and delivery infrastructure among rivals for shared routes. E-commerce platforms can also prefer a combination of various transportation methods in order to manage carbon footprint.
When we are discussing eco-friendly transportation, we can definitely not overlook the practice of purchasing carbon offsets. The practice of carbon offsets is very convenient and effective. It works on the mechanism of carbon-neutral shipping. Carbon offsetting is a shipping method where e-commerce retailers and logistics companies invest in environmental projects like forest conservation, wind-energy production, and next-generation farming to offset unavoidable emissions from air, road, or sea delivery. This way they make-up for the environmental degradation through their business and promote projects for environmental good. Even customers can play their part in making the transportation process much more cleaner and greener. Customers should also opt for eco-friendly options such as consolidated shipping or slower delivery times.
Will the major e-commerce platforms take these steps willingly? Obviously no. We, as consumers, have to be conscious and educated enough to know what we are buying & how we are buying. We need to question these marketplaces and ask for a spontaneous change. We need to switch to sites which understand the climate change crisis & work accordingly.This will also support these platforms to fulfill their environmental obligation, establish a real market position , sustain in the long run and at times make more profits as the government itself provides various incentives to companies to follow the climate change protocol and work in alliance with it. The climate crisis is not a joke and the e-commerce platforms need to understand this.