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Sustainable Urban Logistics: Addressing Last-Mile Challenges

Time to read: 6 minutes

In the fast-paced world of modern logistics, the “last mile” is a significant focus for home delivery and eCommerce businesses. This crucial delivery phase covers a product’s journey from the distribution center to the customer’s door, posing unique logistical challenges.

The term last mile delivery describes the last stage of a product’s delivery path. It’s when a product leaves its distribution center and heads toward the buyer. It is frequently seen as the most costly and time-consuming step in the delivery process. However, this critical step is essential to ensuring total customer satisfaction.  

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The transportation industry plays a significant role in annual global carbon emissions. The availability of eco-friendly delivery choices has become a critical determinant in the decisions made by consumers. It becomes the burden of online merchants when clients demand eco-friendly solutions and faster delivery.

However, prioritizing sustainability in the last mile may attract and keep clients who appreciate environmentally friendly delivery alternatives. These initiatives can also help cut emissions and align with your organization’s sustainability goals.

The last-mile delivery industry has presented several difficulties for cities. Issues facing crowded metropolitan regions today include air pollution, traffic jams, and problems with emissions laws. As more people purchase online, last-mile delivery services must be aware of and overcome these challenges.

Addressing Sustainability Issues for Last-Mile Delivery

Last-mile delivery has transformed in the past couple of years. Influencing factors include the rapid rise of eCommerce, driver shortages, technology developments, and growing customer demands. As last-mile delivery becomes more complex, customers seek greater sustainability and visibility in their delivery alternatives. Over 91% of online shoppers prefer eco-friendly delivery options when checking out.

Your company’s last-mile delivery tactics must be flexible and agile to offset high delivery costs and increase customer satisfaction. Online merchants must expand their fulfillment options in a market where last-mile delivery costs are still high, and efficiency and sustainability have become major players’ top priorities.

Last Mile Delivery Costs — Challenges and Solutions (

The World Economic Forum projects that 2030, demand for urban last-mile deliveries will increase by 78%. Due to this growing demand, the top 100 cities on the globe will see a 36% rise in delivery vehicles. Consequently, delivery-related emissions are expected to increase by about a third, adding an extra eleven minutes to a commuter’s journey.

The path forward is choosing a sustainable distribution route that meets customer expectations while ensuring economic efficiency, cost reduction, and minimal environmental impact.

Planning out your last-mile delivery begins with understanding the challenges it faces. Growing trip volumes, ineffective packing, unsuccessful delivery efforts, and increased returns are some leading causes of the rise in last-mile emissions.

Congestion and Traffic

Urban traffic congestion poses problems for the timely and effective delivery of last-mile services. Heavy traffic can result in delays, higher fuel use, and decreased productivity. Businesses must use creative solutions, including micro-fulfillment centers placed thoughtfully inside municipal borders, to address this problem. Closer fulfillment centers decrease congestion through faster order processing. There is also a reduced demand for long-distance transportation to metropolitan regions since products can be sourced within the city.

Limited Space and Parking

Due to space limitations, finding appropriate parking and storage locations for delivery vehicles in urban settings can be challenging. This problem can slow down delivery operations and incur extra costs. Innovative urban warehouse designs are emerging in response to this challenge. Advanced inventory management systems and a strategic location close to regions of high demand allow warehouses to maximize storage and facilitate delivery staff access.

Erratic Demand and Delivery Density

High delivery density, or a larger concentration of delivery destinations within a smaller geographic region, is a characteristic of urban areas. Furthermore, demand might fluctuate significantly during the day, necessitating flexible delivery choices. The use of crowd-sourced delivery methods could be a solution to these problems.

Failed Deliveries and Increasing Returns

Delivery delays, incomplete addresses, and client unavailability lead to many delivery attempts, which increases emissions. A great way to handle this issue and reduce emissions is to use solutions that allow flexible fulfillment. Leverage technology that can check address accuracy and offer personalized customer communication.

Returns contribute to a delivery task’s increased carbon footprint in two main ways. They produce two types of emissions: one from processing old goods and another from implementing reverse logistics. Reduce returns by utilizing solutions that enhance consumer behavior understanding. This will also increase visibility into the material handling process. Working with a reliable logistics partner can lower the likelihood of product damage.

Six Strategies to Foster Sustainable Last-Mile Delivery

It is critical for companies looking to thrive in the changing eCommerce environment to include sustainability in their basic business processes. Businesses using sustainable methods are more likely to draw in and keep clients, providing a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Integrating sustainable practices into last-mile delivery strategies can significantly influence a business’s margins. It improves operational efficiency and boosts a brand’s reputation by demonstrating a dedication to environmentally friendly practices.

1. Measure Your Current Carbon Footprint

Recognizing your carbon footprint is the first step in creating a sustainable supply chain. This measure is dependent on several variables. Typical factors include energy consumed during transportation, weight, and distance, the materials used for packaging, and even your purchasing patterns. Consolidated shopping, or getting several things in one trip, can lower the carbon impact of each item. Your buying behavior and the way it is transported have a substantial effect on your carbon footprint.

2. Rethink your Packaging Strategy

Packaging waste is a problem that eCommerce, third-party logistics, and courier service companies must deal with. Customers today who care about the environment want deliveries made in packaging using as little plastic and nonbiodegradable materials as possible. Eighty-two percent (82%) of customers are willing to pay extra for sustainable packaging. Progressive businesses must incorporate eco-friendly fillers, recycled cardboard, and plastic into their package designs to meet demands.

3. Streamline Warehouse Operations

Warehouses utilize a lot of energy in supply networks. Sustainable warehouse management is a crucial component of implementing greener practices. Businesses may invest in energy-efficient equipment and lighting. Without sacrificing productivity, it can assist in lowering maintenance expenses and energy use. Furthermore, using micro fulfillment centers nearer to cities can improve consumer closeness while reducing the need for extra infrastructure.

Warehouse Automation: All the Statistics You Need to Know (

4. Explore Eco-friendly Vehicle Options

The last-mile delivery sector has historically been primarily dependent on fossil fuels. Companies that oversee mobile workforces are now actively working to lower greenhouse gas emissions and air and noise pollution. Sustainability objectives and larger environmental efforts are driving business leaders to do more.

Industry leaders are deploying zero-emission delivery fleets to achieve sustainability goals and cut expenses. These fleets extensively use electric vehicles, bicycles, scooters, drones, robots, and other vehicles. 

Sales of electric vehicles have surged dramatically in recent years due to performance improvements, a greater selection of models, and enhanced range. This is despite the initial concerns about the restricted range of alternative delivery vehicles. Furthermore, with today’s zero-emission cars, a range of less than 100 miles is easily possible for the bulk of parcel deliveries.

5. Route Optimization

Route mapping may be optimized using machine-learning-based advanced routing algorithms considering various factors. When roadblocks emerge, route planning systems can adjust in real-time and optimize routes for delivery fleets.

Real-time traffic data and sophisticated routing algorithms may be used to optimize delivery routes and lower emissions and fuel usage. Businesses also combine deliveries to reduce the number of trips to save travel time.

6. Micro-logistics Solutions

Provide consumers various delivery alternatives to lessen the impact of failed or missed deliveries. These options can include time slots and pickup sites, such as nearby shops or lockers.

Package delivery may be simpler and more efficient using micro-logistics solutions, such as automated delivery lockers or pick-up locations in real businesses. Consumers may save time and rely less on door-to-door delivery by picking up their orders at places near their homes or places of business.

Sustainability has moved from a niche issue to an essential requirement in last-mile logistics. Businesses that emphasize environmentally friendly practices benefit from lower expenses, better brand recognition, and more consumer loyalty. Sustainable initiatives also help create a greener future. Sustainable last-mile delivery may be achieved by utilizing cutting-edge technologies, creative solutions, and a dedication to environmental responsibility.

ZhenHub gives your business access to tech-driven eCommerce fulfillment centers to achieve sustainable last-mile deliveries. Easily track and manage your deliveries remotely from an online dashboard. Sign up on our website to start simplifying your logistics. Contact our team of fulfillment experts if you want to learn more about effective last-mile delivery strategies.

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