Tackling congestion and pollution due to the transport of food in urban areas is an issue of concern in the 21st century as we face the challenge of transitioning towards Net Zero and an ever growing urban population. There is a significant amount of research which highlights the importance of tackling these issues including:
Globally, food is responsible for approximately 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions, of which 6% is attributable to distribution (Ritchie, 2019).
In the UK where our main business operates, 35% of greenhouse gases come from the food sector (WRAP, 2021) with miles driven due to moving food responsible for 25% of all truck miles (DEFRA and AEA Technology, 2005).
London, where our main business operates, is facing the ever growing threat of air pollution. Road transport has been one of the main areas targeted by the Mayor of London to tackle this issue (WRI, 2021).
Commercial vehicles are also responsible for a third of transportation emissions globally, highlighting the important role of distribution businesses in reducing supply chain emissions in the transition towards Net Zero (Chauhan et al., 2022; SMMT, 2021).
As a first step in the journey towards reducing harmful environmental impact attributable to our deliveries, we set out to measure what matters - our emissions.
During the summer of 2022, Collectiv Food undertook a study with carbon accounting company, Greenly, focussed on understanding the emissions attributable to our deliveries (including both our patented Points of Distribution (POD) model and our traditional delivery methods) and a typical industry delivery model.
The standards used for the study were defined by the GHG Report Protocol for Corporates, which is the consensual protocol on greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting globally. This means we took into account the full scope of emissions for our last-mile delivery, which was defined as the journey from our central distribution hub to customer locations.
To calculate how much of each pollutant is emitted in the air by our last-mile delivery journeys, Greenly used emission factors based on our current understanding of UK vehicle emissions.
A month's worth of delivery data was reviewed to identify key factors for the calculations, such as the types of vehicles used and more dynamic factors, like the average weight shipped and distance travelled per journey via each delivery method.
To better understand how our last-mile deliveries compare to the market average, we went further by developing a typical last-mile delivery scenario of a competitor - in this case a catering butcher.
To do so, we defined the last-mile of a typical catering butcher in line with the last-mile of our POD and direct deliveries: from central distribution hub to London-based customer locations. We also made the following assumptions about a catering butcher servicing London-based restaurants:
A refrigerated 3.5T diesel van is used for deliveries with capacity to transport up to 800 kg of product
The van driver commutes to the central distribution hub by diesel car, travelling an average of 10 km, maintaining the same assumption as in our POD and direct last-mile calculations
The driver loads a diesel van at an average of 70% capacity, meaning on average the van is filled with 560 kg of food
An average of 68 km is travelled from the warehouse to the first delivery point. This was calculated by taking the average distance from the warehouses of three catering butchers known to be servicing London restaurants to the same inner-city delivery point
An additional 20 km is travelled to complete the 6-8 deliveries within the city
The driver returns to the warehouse travelling another 68 km, maintaining the the assumption that the distance travelled back to the warehouse is the same as the distance to the first delivery point as in our POD and direct delivery calculations
The driver takes his diesel car parked at the warehouse and travels another 10 km to get home - again maintaining this same assumption in our POD last-mile calculations
Alongside the above assumptions, we accounted for the full scope of emissions of the last-mile for a typical catering butcher as we did for our last-mile deliveries. This means for example, we took into account indirect emissions produced due to fabrication and end-of-life of the vehicles used in each case.
Following the completion of the study, we saw the difference between emissions produced per kg of product shipped via both our current last-mile delivery methods and that of a typical catering butcher. We took these findings and built a calculator to continuously track and share emissions attributable to the transport of food in the last-mile.
Greenly concluded that Collectiv Food's POD model can avoid up to 70% of emissions in the last-mile compared to our own direct deliveries.
We also found that a typical catering butcher produces 214.60 gCO2e/ kg of food shipped compared to 125 gCO2e/kg of food shipped via POD (POD emissions factor based on June 2023 delivery data). This means that POD deliveries are already 42% less emissive than the typical catering butcher today.
But this is only the beginning. Our plans to increase volume shipped via PODs and introduce more electric vans and cargo bikes to deliver from PODs to customers mean that in the future, POD deliveries can reduce emissions by up to 75% in the last-mile compared to the same journey of a typical catering butcher.
What the data means for you
As a Collectiv Food customer, last-mile delivery emissions reported by us make up part of your Scope 3 emissions.
To help you understand the positive environmental impact of your deliveries, we also provide last-mile delivery emissions savings specific to your orders. We do so by subtracting the total emissions produced of shipping a given amount of food (kg) via a typical catering butcher as defined above and the emissions produced of shipping the same amount of food by PODs or our direct methods.
As a Collectiv Food customer, you'll have ongoing access to personalised emissions data via your Sustainability Hub in the Collectiv Food App. This data enables you to identify factors contributing to your delivery emissions, track emissions avoided over time and support you in your journey to Net Zero.
Limitations and future improvements
There are limitations to every calculation. A given vehicle may have to take a detour because of traffic, so the emissions may be higher or lower than average. Variations like these are not currently included in the calculation. Likewise, the precise transport method from POD to customer, be it a cargo bike, electric van or diesel van is not taken into account due to current limitations of tracking this data in real time. Instead, emissions attributable to this leg of POD deliveries are calculated on the basis of a monthly average of deliveries done by each type of vehicle.
As we work to reduce the emissions attributable to our deliveries, significant changes are reflected in the delivery emissions factors for our POD and direct delivery methods, both of which are updated on a monthly basis as part of ensuring our calculations remain accurate and up-to-date.
Looking ahead, we are committed to understanding the broader impact of our patented-POD deliveries. Factors such as reduced pollution and congestion in cities will be taken into account as we work towards a more comprehensive understanding of our environmental impact.