New report holds global e-commerce, logistics giants to task for dismal climate targets, woefully inadequate fleet electrification plans
December 7, 2021
As online shopping has boomed in the last decade and reached a frenzied height during the Covid-19 pandemic, six leading global e-commerce companies have failed to deliver ambitious targets to decarbonize their fleet and delivery operations.
”Parcel Delivery on a Warming Planet” finds that the six major global logistics, e-commerce and retail companies have all failed to set ambitious targets to decarbonize. Additionally, they do not provide clear and accessible data on the measures they are currently taking or any progress they have made. While these companies acknowledge the climate crisis and the impact of last mile deliveries, they are falling short.
In the past decade, the “Amazon effect” has determined the features of the delivery sector: shipping and returns have to be fast and free. After the e-commerce sector tripled in size between 2014 and 2019, restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic led to a further boom in parcel deliveries in 2020. This has resulted in more packages, more vehicles, more local pollution, more drivers, more waste, and, critically, more CO2 emissions. The report aims to demonstrate the relevance of the decarbonization of last-mile parcel delivery and single out the role and responsibility of global companies and cities in achieving this objective.
Amazon, FedEx, UPS, Walmart, Deutsche Post DHL Group, and Flipkart are being called upon to:
- To work with urgency towards making 100% of their fleets Zero Emissions by 2030.
- To immediately cease the procurement of any Internal Combustion delivery vehicles.
- To immediately supply (and then on a yearly basis) clear and comparable data on greenhouse gas emissions, the measures taken to address environmental impacts and the monitoring of the impact of these measures.
In North America, the Streets for People Network is getting off the ground in partnership with organizations in India and Europe. In spring of 2022, a second report is expected that further ranks these companies, in tandem with a full campaign launch. This will be an exciting moment in the urban mobility arena and there are a number of compelling stories that Stand.earth believes should be told.
- A new report called “Parcel Delivery on a Warming World” was released on Dec. 7, 2021, and analyzed the decarbonization targets and fleet electrification plans of six logistics and e-commerce giants —U.S.-based companies Amazon, FedEx, UPS, and Walmart, as well as Deutsche Post DHL Group, headquartered in Germany, and Flipkart, which is based in India.
- To keep warming to below 1.5℃ and avoid the worst outcomes in the climate crisis, we must accelerate decarbonization of the world’s vehicle fleet by 22 times faster than current trends. In every case, these companies’ commitments are insufficient to support the goals of meeting the 1.5 degree target.
- E-commerce is a major driver of retail sales globally and a significant source of carbon pollution. This has resulted in a proliferation of packages, drivers, waste, local pollution, and carbon emissions from parcel-delivery companies’ “last-mile” operations, which refers to the trips between a transportation hub and a customer’s home or business.
- The “Parcel Delivery on a Warming World” report concluded that these companies’ targets and plans are woefully inadequate to decarbonize quickly enough and at the scale necessary to avoid the dire outcomes of the climate crisis. Several companies lack these plans and targets entirely, while others lack transparency and shroud the pollution and environmental impact of their parcel-delivery operations from the public and consumers. Only one of the six companies provides specific and accessible data on the size of its current fleet and the different types of vehicles.
- A new international network is working to solve this issue by accelerating the decarbonization of the transportation sector, including the transition to and adoption of 100% electric mobility in major cities and among global fleet operators by 2030, and through local government actions to address air pollution.
- This new international network consists of North American environmental advocacy group Stand.earth, a European clean transportation coalition called the Clean Cities Campaign, and Indian advocacy group Asar. In North America, the network is called Streets for People.
- A number of the companies analyzed in this report, including Amazon, FedEx and UPS have also recently been linked by Stand.earth to additional new research that shows they are using oil from the Amazon rainforest to power their delivery fleets. Overall, 39 million gallons of diesel from the Amazon rainforest was consumed by parcel delivery services in 2020. More information here.
“These six corporate giants want to hide their delivery operations’ environmental impact behind press releases or website articles, but this new report offers a clear and compelling picture. Last-mile delivery operations are creating worsening air pollution problems,” said Victoria Leistman, Senior International Campaigner for Stand.earth. “Because of this fossil fuel combustion, low-income neighborhoods and BIPOC communities are suffering disproportionately worse health effects. Cities must take action to protect themselves and get clean air to breathe. By using legal authorities they already possess, local elected officials can take action tomorrow to fix this problem.”
‘Parcel Delivery on a Warming Planet’ evaluated the commitments that five of these companies have made to address the climate crisis, including reducing their emissions to either zero or net zero emissions by either 2040 or 2050. UPS is the sole member of the group not to set a target date to achieve zero or net zero emissions. 2040 and 2050 are far too late to meaningfully impact the decarbonization necessary to avert the worst outcomes of the climate crisis. Additionally, it’s unclear what concrete actions these companies will be taking to electrify their fleets and transform their delivery operations. Worse, their impacts on greenhouse gas emissions are difficult to quantify because they have failed to provide clear and comparable data.
“Most companies are currently only starting the rollout of their fleet electrification and will need to accelerate and upscale their efforts in order to achieve their own climate goals and realise sustainable last-mile delivery,” said Ilona Hartlief, researcher at SOMO, which conducts research on multinational corporations and produced the report for Streets for People. SOMO was commissioned by Stand.earth, an Indian advocacy group Asar, and the Urban Movement Innovation Fund.
“In addition to these companies, city and state administrations should implement schemes and policies, working with a variety of stakeholders such as consumer groups, civil society organisations, and delivery companies, to ensure an accelerated zero-emission electric vehicle transition for last-mile delivery fleets, “said Siddharth Sreenivas of Asar in India. “City and company level changes together would improve air quality in urban centers and additionally benefit the large workforce employed by this sector.”
Who commissioned this report?
This research was commissioned by Stand.Earth and Asar. The report was funded by the Urban Movement Innovation Fund. The content of the publication is the full responsibility of SOMO and does not necessarily reflect the position of the commissioners.
The information in this report was submitted to Amazon, Deutsche Post DHL Group, FedEx, Flipkart, UPS, and Walmart. Deutsche Post DHL Group, FedEx, and UPS responded; their comments were incorporated into this report where relevant. The online versions of the sources in this report were last verified and saved on 22 November 2021.
About SOMO: The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) is a critical, independent, not-for-profit knowledge centre on multinational corporations. Since 1973, we have investigated multinational corporations and the impact of their activities on people and the environment. We also provide custom-made services (research, consulting, and training) to nonprofit organisations and the public sector. We strengthen collaboration between civil society organisations through our worldwide network. In these three ways, we contribute to social, environmental, and economic sustainability.
What is the purpose of the report?
We need to multiply the speed of decarbonisation of the worlds’ vehicle fleet by 22 times to avoid the worst of the climate crisis. E- commerce sales tripled globally from 2014 – 2019, a statistic that predates the pandemic’s drive of home deliveries. The report aims to demonstrate the relevance of the decarbonization of last-mile parcel delivery and single out the role and responsibility of global companies and cities in achieving this objective.
Why target these six companies?
This report investigates the efforts and ambitions of six companies (Amazon, Deutsche Post DHL Group, FedEx, Flipkart, United Parcel Service (UPS), and Walmart) to reduce and eliminate the negative impact of their last-mile deliveries on global warming. The six companies were selected due to their leading positions in retail, e-commerce, and parcel delivery markets in a number of key geographies in North America, Europe, and India. To obtain a clear view on the delivery sector, different kinds of companies were chosen. Therefore, the research does not aim to make general statements about the entire delivery sector. It specifically looked at the companies’ efforts regarding their company-wide emissions targets, fleet emission reduction targets, current electric vehicle fleets and investments in the expansion of these fleets, the use of alternative vehicles, improvements in logistics processes, and the use of alternative delivery methods (such as drones and robots).
Peter Jensen, SAFE Cities Communications Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 415 532 3817 (Pacific Time)
Victoria Leistman, Senior International Campaigner, email@example.com, +1 516 650 7530 (Pacific Time)
Matt Krogh, US Oil & Gas Campaign Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 360 820 2938 (Pacific Time)