Over the last few years, online shopping has boomed. But is it better for the environment to get your parcels delivered to your home, or to a pick-up point? Sometimes information provided to customers can be confusing or misleading. iParcelBox, a Humber-based company that solves the problem of missed home deliveries, wanted a way to help customers make evidence-based, informed decisions about which delivery methods were greenest. They came to the Aura Innovation Centre to see if we could help deliver.
iParcelBox is an innovative parcel delivery solution that is disrupting the last mile of a parcel’s delivery. They provide a smart, secure and weatherproof drop-box, which the customer monitors and controls from their smartphone to securely receive parcels when they’re not home or can’t get to the door.
As a result, parcels can be securely delivered first time, saving valuable time for both delivery companies and customers, and also cutting down on the greenhouse gas emissions often associated with missed deliveries.
In order to reduce their own corporate emissions, many courier companies are encouraging customers to get their parcels delivered to out-of-home locations, such as pick-up points or lockers. This allows couriers to avoid delivering the final leg of the journey, allowing them to account for a reduction in their delivery emissions. However, their claims of environmental benefits ignore the fact that the customer will still have to collect their parcel.
Depending on their personal circumstances and the distance to the pick-up point, customers may choose to walk, take public transport, or drive a vehicle to collect their parcel, all of which create different levels of emissions.
iParcelBox believes that in many situations, a successful first-time delivery directly to a customer’s home will be the greenest option, particularly if the customer opts to travel in a vehicle to collect their parcel.
In order to address this dilemma, iParcelBox wanted to undertake carbon mapping of e-commerce purchases, giving both retailers and customers a fair and unbiased comparison of emissions, enabling them to make informed decisions as to the greenest option. This would be a complex project, which they’d need expert help on – so they turned to the team at the Aura Innovation Centre, part of the University of Hull.
Dr Sushma Kumari, Programme Director
Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Hull University Business School
The University of Hull has a world-class Logistics Institute, so when iParcelBox got in touch with the Aura Innovation Centre, we knew there’d be academics who’d love to get their hands on such an innovative and fascinating project.
After taking time to understand the company’s objectives, AIC Innovation Manager Dave Dawson matched iParcelBox up with logistics and supply chain expert Dr Sushma Kumari, who leads a masters course in the subject. Dave was able to secure European Regional Development Fund funding for the project, paying for the time of Dr Kumari, as well as the time for two masters students and a PhD student to work on creating a model to calculate carbon emissions for various delivery options.
As well as researching the difference in emissions between the couriers delivering parcels to homes or collection points, the model also allows the customer to calculate the emissions for collecting the parcel, based on a variety of different transport options (walking, public transport, car etc), providing a recommendation as to the greenest overall option for each individual customer. The model also takes into account whether the collection can be combined with another trip, to make sure results were super accurate.
The tool would allow both industry bodies and customers to decide on the best delivery option, for themselves and for the environment.
If you knew how green your parcel delivery was, would you make different choices?
The e-commerce industry has previously suffered from a lack of reliable information for eco-conscious customers to use when considering how they get parcels delivered. This new tool delivers accurate, unbiased data to give consumers information on which of the available delivery options is best for the planet. This should help customers make an informed choice when it comes to home delivery, and could be the catalyst for a societal behavioural change – something which can only be good for meeting long term net zero targets.
The myparcel carbon calculator tool is now available for commercial and individual customers to access at https://co2.myparcel.org.uk
Paul Needler, CEO at iParcelBox, said: “It’s great that consumers will finally have access to a simple tool they can use to make informed decisions about how to minimise the emissions associated with parcel deliveries, backed up with EU-funded academic research.”
“For a large proportion of the population where collection involves either a dedicated vehicle journey or an extra leg to an existing trip, they may be surprised to find that at-home delivery to a secure location such as iParcelBox could be the greenest option.”
Since the initial tool was developed, the project has now been extended to look at analysing the data which comes in through use of the tool – for example, being able to see what proportion of searches recommend certain types of delivery.
Given the continued growth of online shopping, the potential for benefits to the environment are enormous, so this is really a project on which we can say we’ve delivered.