Climate Change and Global Warming are a factor in our lives. 97% of the scientific community agrees that humankind has fostered this process.Yet not enough has been done so far to fight this problem. As many of our today’s enemies, Climate Change is invisible.We humans are wired to imagine positive realities, we don’t like to think about unpleasant scenarios. Therefore we underestimate them completely.
Scientists agree on the consequences of the world’s temperature rise. They would (hopefully not will) affect all of us, all parts of our economy, and worstly all the flora and fauna around. We have to cope with this situation as soon as possible, as a society and as individuals.Governments are already taking action. Yet the bureaucracy machine requires time to be effective, and we might be running out.
Our research has made us realize the negative (and subtle) impact that e-commerce has on the planet. Especially fast deliveries. Indeed that market is growing, thus involving more and more vehicles. An increased number of vehicles implies more fuel. Fuel when combusted releases in the atmosphere CO2. That molecule is not only harmful for us, but has the characteristic to retain heat, thereby contributing to Global Warming.
The harm of this sector goes beyond vehicles. When a product is shipped a special packaging is required, which most of the time ends up in our oceans.The energy necessary to keep goods in a warehouse increases emissions as well.So our decision is to take action, and it all starts with our logistic system.
There are not easy solutions for this problem and certainly the e-commerce will continue to grow in the future, just think that only in Italy consumers who shop online are around 38 million, or 62% of the population, and it is expected to reach 41 million by 2023. It is therefore necessary to reorganize the logistics system to minimize damage, but how?
We have tried to identify sustainable and non-alternative solutions for companies and the community.
- Although it may seem trivial, the first solution to reduce the environmental impact could be the (partial, but progressively) conversion of the transport fleets, moving from petrol or diesel powered vehicles to those powered by electricity. In recent years, technologies related to zero-emission engines have made enormous progress, making these vehicles much more accessible than it was a few years ago.
- The second point concerns us consumers. How many times have we purchased a single item online? Maybe asking for a fast delivery. Here, what seems a gesture without consequence increase enormously the number of transports that must be carried out by companies that deliver goods. Precisely for this reason, the consumer should be “educated to purchase” and pushed towards more informed choices, such as the rediscovery of the neighborhood shop or the bundling of small expenses made online.
- Finally, another solution, although more futuristic, could be the dislocation of production through the use of 3D printers. With these, different types of goods could be printed directly in the storage places or in areas far from the main factories, reducing a large part of the emission linked to transport.
The aim is to reach the highest consensus possible. The ambition is to involve not only investors, but also our competitors. Indeed if our action would be replicated by others, the impact ought to be tremendously stronger. The Italian e-commerce market is growing 10% every year, with a value estimated of 20,9 billion. Yet a 38% of Italians declares that visiting a shop in person help to take a final decision about a product. We can fairly say that this market is still expanding, and holds a lot of potentialities still. Our main competitors are DHL, TNT (Fed-Ex group), Ups, GLS. Those are all big companies with zero or low liquidity problems. Therefore their fleets are robust.
Nevertheless our strategy is not to increase the number of vehicles but to change our image and our impact on the planet. Instead of seeing them as competitors, we see them as colleagues. In order to obtain a solid change in the industry we need a network of cooperation, therefore the plan is to have a meeting with all the players in the sector to discuss our ideas.
To obtain the needed consensus we plan to start a massive advertising campaign as soon as we manage the logistics properly. These objectives can be achieved showing how the conversion to a green economy can bring a series of advantages. In the first place, companies engaged in environmental protection attract more attention, there is no doubt that a conscientious and attentive consumer will tend to prefer them over less aware competitors.
This company line also gives the possibility to access ISO certifications (9001–14001–14064) which can improve the organization, the image and make access to finance easier.
Then there are the direct economic benefits, such as the reduction of fuel costs. For example, transporting goods for 100km with a diesel van costs around € 21. The same transport, carried out with the same model, but powered by electricity costs about € 12.50.
As for the use of 3D printers in addition to the net decrease in costs and emissions related to transport, it would affect what are the warehouse stocks, managing to optimize spaces and resources by allocating the goods where they are needed, limiting expenses related to warehouses and proper storage of goods for long periods.
The articulation of our project is so that we can start to implement our logistic procedures in no more than a month.The conversion to electric trucks is a high-speed change as well. The only time keeping aspect is the collection of funds. We plan to have the fleet renewed in 15 months maximum. Different thoughts regard the remote 3D production. That is a pilot project, thereby more researches are needed before releasing the machines. The plan in this case is to spend 30 months perfecting the system, and 12 more months to work on logistics. The deadline is within 4 years from the beginning of this project’s line.
Is important to underline the importance of acting promptly. In 5 years this plan has to be perfectly functioning. To make the plan workable and meet the deadlines, we will need investments. For the renewal of the transport fleet, we have the idea of accessing state public funding as indicated by the Ministerial Decree of 22 July 2019 and European funding through participation in the Cef transport blending facility 2019 call. These will allow us to progressively replace the vehicles, without placing excessive strain on the company’s coffers.
Specifically, we intend to purchase Citroen Berlingo Van Full Electric vehicles for the first phase and for city transport, while for highway transport we will rely on Iveco Daily Electric. Finally, for the project related to 3D printers, we intend to allocate funds to carry out tests and evaluate the industrial feasibility of the project. If satisfactory results are achieved after the first 20 months, we will move on to a second phase of 10-month studies which will aim at perfecting the system.
To conclude, we believe this is a necessary step for our company and in general for transport market, since only in this way and with this type of initiative will it be possible to secure ourselves in an environmentally sustainable future without having to give up or pay an excessive price for habits that the world is acquiring.
Lorenzo Bentivoglio, Raffaele Iengo