This article is provided by BRC Associate Member nShift.


Consumer preference for environmentally friendly brands has never been higher.  Here are three ways retailers can reduce their footprint – and build customer loyalty.

From clothing and personal care items to household goods and food, some of the fastest-growing brands are those with clear environmental commitments.

This is raising the ante for multichannel and ecommerce retailers, with their carbon-intensive supply chains and last-mile delivery networks.  Conventional logic has it that as their businesses grow, so, too, will their environmental footprint - from delivery van emissions to waste sent to landfill.

And that raises the possibility that they could, eventually, lose hard-won customers to newer, seemingly greener, rivals.  Some 71% of consumers prefer to buy from companies that are aligned to their values.[1]

How can retailers do their bit to protect the environment, and at the same time grow their business?  They must be more environmentally efficient than their competitors – and securing the support (and loyalty) of customers is crucial.  There are three areas to focus on: widening delivery choices for customers, rethinking emissions data, and embracing the circular economy.

Widening delivery choices

Widening the delivery choices available to customers is an easy option for retailers to take and puts customers firmly in control of their own carbon footprint.  Seeing one’s carefully chosen, eco-friendly goods unloaded from a diesel-powered van doesn’t just look incongruous, it can undermine the customer relationship.

Making more delivery choices available puts the consumer back in control of their own carbon footprint.  Most retailers already offer their customers delivery options based on speed or cost; emissions should also be part of the mix.  With more choices, spanning more modes of transport and emissions profiles, customers can choose those which best reflect their values.

Forward-looking retailers are going further still, inviting customers to donate a small portion of delivery charges to good causes backed by the retailer. It costs the customer nothing but provides a further opportunity to engage. In the process, customers move from being spectators to active participants in retailers’ sustainability efforts.

Gaining a tighter grip on emissions data

Embracing zero-emissions deliveries and the circular economy is only partially successful, if retailers cannot manage down their emissions overall, and report back easily.

Being able to keep track of logistics emissions is therefore crucial for retailers looking to demonstrably support the journey to net zero.

Current approaches to emissions reporting, which rely on manual analyses carried out a few times a year, aren’t up to the job of developing emissions-cutting strategies that work.  Retailers need reliable, verifiable emissions data that is far more granular and dynamic – ideally down to the level of individual shipments.

This level of detail enables retailers to set realistic emissions targets based on real-world data, rather than theoretical projections, and identify “quick wins” for emissions reduction, particularly in the last mile.  It can also help to automate emissions reporting, saving time and freeing people up to support decarbonisation elsewhere.

Later this year, nShift will launch Emissions Tracker, a cloud-based platform recording the carbon emissions for deliveries, at the individual shipment level.

The new offering uses industry-standard carbon calculations, helping businesses identify where emissions can be reduced, and aiding compliance with emissions reduction regulations.

The circular opportunity

In their quest to minimise their environmental impacts, growing numbers of retailers are exploring how they can give their products a new lease of life.  “Circularity,” repairing or up-cycling used products for resale, enables retailers to reduce waste and earn additional revenues.  Plus, they can communicate powerful brand messages about product quality.

The challenge lies in securing ready supplies of the “right” used products.  There is greater residual value in a pair of vintage jeans than in an old T-shirt.  And that is where mature, flexible reverse logistics capabilities can come into play.

With the right customer engagement, and a simple user experience, retailers can recover the inventory they need for resale.  At the same time, they are likely to rekindle long-standing relationships, encourage repeat purchase, and underscore their environmental commitments.  That makes circularity a win-win-win for loyalty, revenues, and the planet.

Many of the environmental challenges that face the supply chain are outside the control of individual ecommerce businesses or multichannel retailers.  But they can achieve an efficient environmental impact, in which they grow more while polluting less.  The right logistics capabilities, backed with technology which makes the experience simple and easy for customers, are a vital part of retailers’

Find out how nShift’s delivery management suite can help retailers track and reduce emissions, widen customer choice, and prepare for the opportunities of the circular economy.