New report holds global e-commerce, parcel-delivery giants to task for dismal climate targets, woefully inadequate fleet electrification plans

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As online shopping has boomed in the past decade and reached a frenzied height during the Covid-19 pandemic, six leading global e-commerce companies have failed to deliver ambitious targets to de-carbonise their fleet and delivery operations.

Further, these companies lack transparency about the environmental impact of their operations, and must provide their consumers and the public with clear and comparable data about their greenhouse gas emissions. These are the key findings of a new report called ‘Parcel Delivery on a Warming Planet’.

This report analyses six companies: US-based Amazon, FedEx, UPS, and Walmart, as well as Deutsche Post DHL Group, headquartered in Germany, and Flipkart, which is based in India. 

The e-commerce boom has resulted in a flood of truck traffic and warehouses have sprung up in neighborhoods in US cities and around the globe. Parcel delivery-related air pollution has proliferated as a result. The report concluded that cities play a critical role in addressing this crisis. Using their legal authority to regulate land-use and protect public health, cities can enact powerful regulations to improve air quality impacts and hold companies accountable for the burdens that local communities must shoulder from e-commerce delivery.

“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.”

The report 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 decarbonisation 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 realize 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 response to the report’s findings, the international Streets for People network is calling on these six companies to:

  • Make all their fleets zero emission by 2030
  • Immediately stop procurement of internal combustion delivery vehicles, and
  • increase transparency and be accountable to their consumers and the public by publishing clear and comparable data on their greenhouse gas emissions as well as their measures to address environmental impacts.

The impact of these six companies' failure to adopt clean fleets was further underscored in a Dec. 2 report from Stand.earth, which revealed how Amazon.com, UPS, and FedEx’s fleets in California are burning oil extracted from the Western Amazon Basin and rainforest. The groundbreaking research demonstrated how California converts half of the Amazon oil exported globally into fuel for airports such as LAX, Amazon.com, UPS, and FedEx distribution and delivery fleets, retail gas giants like Costco, consumers, and many other users. The crude oil is being extracted from one of the most biodiverse regions in the Amazon Basin.

“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,” he added.

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