According to new research conducted by Stand.earth research group and Clean Mobility Collective, the last-mile emissions of the six largest global delivery and e-commerce companies alone amount to approximately 4.5 megatons of CO2. This figure is expected to rise exponentially in the coming years. This is roughly equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions from 1 million petrol passenger vehicles.
The report highlights the top six companies in terms of overall emissions: UPS, FedEx, Amazon Logistics (Amazon’s logistics and courier division), DPD (Strategic partner & significant minority stakeholder of DTDC India), eKart (Flipkart’s courier division), and DHL eCommerce Solutions (courier division of Deutsche Post DHL Group). Commitments from them are far behind what is required to achieve zero-emission deliveries and lack transparency.
Lead author, Stand.earth, Greg Higgs said, “We researched 90 courier companies across Europe, India, and North America,“.
“None of them are open about their last-mile emissions. We discovered that the top six polluters account for more than two-thirds of total CO2 emissions in our database of parent companies. Furthermore, because these six companies are primarily responsible for subcontracting delivery services to many of the remaining companies in our dataset, their negative impact on the environment and public health is likely to be even greater,” he added.
The report also finds that the last mile CO2 emissions in India and across the other regions, are at least half of all overall emissions from e-commerce deliveries. While the primary e-commerce majors researched as part of the study in India are Amazon and Flipkart in India, a range of courier and logistics companies with a significant footprint and providing delivery services to these companies were additionally researched, and the findings on emissions and transparency were similar. Some of the major Indian courier and last mile delivery companies researched include Delhivery, DTDC India, Blue Dart Express, Shadowfax, Ecom Express, amongst others.
Other India-specific findings in the report show that India’s last mile emissions per delivery (285 gCO2) are significantly higher than the global weighted average (204 gCO2). Furthermore, five Indian cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, and Chennai – emit more CO2 from last-mile delivery than the last mile emissions of entire countries such as France and Canada.
The higher Indian figures for average per parcel delivery compared to global or European figures are concerning- the rise in India could potentially be attributed to greater congestion in Indian cities compared to other regions. India would benefit from ensuring an ambitious transition to electric for its last mile delivery. This would mean cleaner air in congested cities, reduction in carbon emissions, and savings for the gig workers. The e-commerce majors need to enable this transition considering their impact and future growth plans.
Interestingly, Indian homegrown brand Flipkart, with their commitment to transition their last mile fleets to EV by 2030, articulates this ambition, wherein they along with committing to Climate Group’s EV100 target of 100% EV fleets by 2030 also commit aims to achieve net zero across their operations by 2040. Moreover, with an array of regulatory pathways and instruments announced and under implementation, from the Central and several State Governments, the context as well as opportunity is in place for this sector to be the torch-bearer for this seismic transformation in India. The findings of the study point to the policy focus and intent that is already being put into accelerated EV transition in the delivery sector – through the Niti Aayog’s Shoonya campaign, and for e.g. key states such as Delhi and Maharashtra, identifying policies and regulations that are actively decarbonizing the last mile delivery sector.
Siddharth Sreenivas, Clean Mobility Collective India Coordinator said, “The short trips that millions of delivery vehicles take every day have a disproportionate impact on pollution, smog, air quality, and, ultimately, our health, as well as our ability to achieve a zero-emission future. It is critical that businesses collaborate with our governments to come clean about their emissions and commit to clear, time-bound plans to reduce them,”.
With the Indian ecosystem expected to massively expand in terms of business and allied employment, companies need to plan and scale-up how they will decarbonize their delivery fleets in a way that is “socially just” while being compatible with environmental and climate accountability and commitments.
Acknowledging the challenges faced by the sector, Atul Mudaliar, Head of Business Actions India, Climate Group said, “This is not just an e-commerce or a delivery sector problem, it is an industry-wide gap globally. Scope 3 emissions, referring to emissions from the extended supply chain including sub-contracted last mile delivery partners, outside a company’s direct control are intractable, they are most difficult to quantify and hence least reported. Much of the industry’s focus has been on managing Scope 1 and Scope 2, which apply to internal emissions within the companies operations, as they are easy to start but the approach is slowly changing and will need to change even faster. If Scope 3 in e-commerce is a big driver of emissions then the industry should invest in transparent accounting and disclosures.”
Mudaliar further added, “India’s $350 billion 2030 market can show the way to tackle this problem. It is significant to note that the report acknowledges Indian home grown brand, Flipkart, which has committed to Climate Group’s EV100 campaign to transition their entire last mile fleet by 2030 along with engaging their extended value chain to meet net-zero emissions including Scope 3 by 2040.“