How to implement sustainable logistics this holiday season

Vivien Christel Vella
Vivien Christel Vella
4 min read
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This peak season, sustainability is in the spotlight, with consumers watching brands’ actions closely. But can your business really act sustainably whilst meeting increased demand and tighter turnaround times? Our 9 logistics tips will put your business on a greener path.

9 sustainable logistics practices to implement this holiday season

recyclable package

Highlight your eco-friendly products

4 out of 5 people describe themselves as likely to choose a brand with a positive approach to environmental sustainability1. Add an “eco-friendly gifts” tab to your website to direct these shoppers to your selection quickly.

Take inspiration from cosmetics brand The Body Shop2, which produces an eco-conscious holiday gift guide for its customers, featuring its vegan and nature-inspired products. Meanwhile, in 2021, ethical retailer Buy Me Once3 ran a Christmas campaign that discounted the ten most voted for products by its customers to emphasize its ethos of “buying with intent” and reducing waste.

mobile phone on keyboard

Give back

‘Tis the season of giving after all…Perhaps your business could donate a portion of holiday proceeds to an environmental scheme, or commit to plant a tree for every order received. Or do something for the local community – small business Stand 4 Socks4, for example, donates a pair of thick socks to a homeless person for every pair sold on its website.

help wanted sign in window

Hire seasonal staff

Managing a surge in demand can be particularly stressful for small businesses, where owners are often already juggling multiple roles. By hiring seasonal staff, you can ease the burden. Now is the time to look at where in your logistics you may need extra support and start the recruitment process. Be aware that the demand won’t stop after the holidays; you may need help managing product returns throughout January. In 2022, 44% of business owners surveyed by the National Retail Federation said they planned to hire extra staff to help them handle returns during the holidays5. With the returns experience so integral to customers’ loyalty to a brand, can you afford not to invest?

people walking

Tap into AI for inventory management

Forecasting demand can be a big challenge for any retailer during the peak season. Understock and you’ll have some disappointed customers on your hands; overstock and you’ll have lots of waste. Fortunately, Artificial Intelligence can help. Smart inventory management software can monitor your stock levels, in real time, and adjust your website’s prices to stay competitive and shift slower-moving products. As for any stock that is left over, a Boxing Day flash sale will help sell it and divert it from ending up in landfill.

hand holding green beans

Use eco-friendly packaging

In a consumer survey by McKinsey6, more than 60% of respondents said they’d pay more for a product with sustainable packaging. Customers buying Christmas gifts from your webstore may want them wrapped, but this doesn’t have to be wasteful. Source eco-friendly packaging suppliers; The Tiny Box Company7, for example, offers recycled tissue paper and bio-degradable ribbon sourced from wood pulp. Just make sure to pack orders in the right-sized boxes so they can be shipped in the most space optimal way – which means less transport emissions and cheaper shipping for your business.

man and two kids recycling items

Encourage recycling

Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, Americans increase their solid waste by an estimated 25%8, whilst in the UK, an extra 30% of rubbish is produced and discarded over the Christmas period9. In short, a wasteful time, but your business can play its part by encouraging recycling throughout its logistics. Prioritize recyclable materials for your packaging, and invite customers to send their empty packaging back to you in return for a discount code for their next order – a strategy that will reflect well on your brand and earn you some extra sales.

man looking at computer screen

Offer a choice of delivery options

It goes without saying that getting holiday orders to customers on time is crucial. Whilst last-minute shoppers will look for next-day shipping options at your checkout, be mindful of eco-conscious customers too: 42% of shoppers say they will consider paying more for sustainable shipping or select a longer delivery window10, so be sure to offer a range of delivery options to keep everyone happy. Communicate your holiday delivery cut-off times clearly on your website so nobody misses out.

woman placing parcel in parcel locker

Focus on a green last mile

Last-mile deliveries makes up a significant proportion of e-commerce businesses logistics emissions. Over the busy holiday season, with delivery volumes increasing sharply, your business should look into green transport solutions.  

DHL’s GoGreen Plus solution enables businesses to reduce the carbon emissions associated with their shipments through the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel – a biofuel that is produced from renewable sources such as vegetable oils, animal fats, waste products, and agricultural crops. It can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80% compared to fossil fuels. The service can be selected for individual shipments, making it a flexible option for SMEs and e-commerce businesses with smaller cargo loads.

woman sticking note on package

Remember returns

According to the National Retail Federation, the holiday returns rate sits around 17% each year11. Not only are returns expensive to your business, but they result in extra transport emissions, increasing its carbon footprint. However, there are some steps your business can take to make your product returns more sustainable:

  • Encourage your customers to return the item to you in the packaging it arrived in to reduce waste.

  • Partner with DHL. Your customers can drop off their returns to a convenient DHL Service Point. A courier will then pick up the packages and deliver them to you all at once, reducing the number of transport trips.

  • Let your online customers return their items in store. It may even encourage some extra impulse sales, too!

When you open a DHL Express Business Account, you’ll have access to a range of industry-leading sustainable logistics solutions.