We had considered not starting this post dramatically... But: It is dramatic. For years we have been emitting far too much CO2 and other pollutants, thus polluting our earth. If we do not reduce our CO2 emissions from now on, the climate catastrophe cannot be averted. This is precisely the reason why CO2 compensation and CO2 avoidance "cannot" be, but must be.
Large companies in particular often have the long leverage and are in a position to make a mark. And who better to have a big impact than parcel service providers? Fortunately, some of the big players are already committed to CO2 compensation. At Liefergrün, we go one step further - and are fully committed to CO2 avoidance.
Of course, both steps are good and go in the right direction. But how can the logistics division help to actually avert the climate catastrophe? What role does logistics play in this at all (spoiler: a big one!)? And to what extent does the rethinking in the CEP sector influence e-commerces that rely on deliveries?
Status quo: Why do we need CO2 abatement at all?
But first things first. We wouldn't need CO2 avoidance or compensation if the clear facts didn't speak in favor of it: The 1.5 degree target of the 2015 Paris climate agreement states that the world should only warm by 1.5 degrees by 2100 - at the moment, however, we are so far along that we could exceed the "magic" 1.5 degree mark as early as 2026. The devastating consequences: Floods, heat and drought periods and, in the worst case, climate refugees.
But where do we start? The answer: It doesn't matter. The main thing is to do something. However, great potential lies in the transport sector. After all, 146 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents were already emitted in 2020. According to the Federal Climate Protection Act, these are to be reduced to 85 million CO2 by 2030. Of course, private individuals can make sure to take the train rather than the car, walk more, carpool, etc.
Decision-makers in e-commerce and logistics service providers in particular can exert a major, sustainable influence. After all, an enormous number of parcels are still being sent, most of which are transported by environmentally harmful delivery trucks. In 2020, there were a whole 131 billion parcels worldwide, and the trend is rising. If we continue in this way, it will not be possible to meet the 1.5 degree target. Reducing emissions will also be difficult if we don't change anything.
So as you can see, it doesn't matter whether you're a private individual, a decision-maker in e-commerce or a parcel service provider: we have to do something. We have a few suggestions...
CO2 compensation: Solid support
You've probably already heard about this: More and more companies are boasting that they are offsetting the pollutants they emit in a variety of ways. In simple terms, the CO2 emitted is invested in a project that works to protect the climate. To do this, the CO2 footprint must first be determined in order to find out how much CO2 actually has to be offset. The CO2 emitted is therefore saved elsewhere.
Example: You invest in a mangrove project in Myanmar. Depending on how much CO2 your company emits, you buy a certain number of mangroves - so that they virtually bind your emissions again.
Various providers such as ClimatePartner, Climatpartner or FirstClimate ultimately ensure that the money flows into projects for climate protection. These can be reforestation or social projects, hydropower plants or solar kiosks. From tree planting to social projects and hydroelectric plants to solar kiosks. Depending on the CO2 emissions, you pay a corresponding amount to make up for the emitted CO2 by saving it elsewhere.
CO2 compensation is also becoming increasingly popular in e-commerce. For example, the online giant Zalando offers to send the order CO2-neutral for only 25 cents during the ordering process. All shoppers have to do is tick the box and Zalando will offset the emissions caused by packaging, transport and delivery.
But it is not only e-commerce companies that are paying attention to offsetting CO2 and offering their customers the opportunity to do so. Something is also slowly happening in the logistics sector. In our article on sustainable shipping service providers, we look at the progress made so far. For example, DHL has been offering the CO2-neutral delivery method "DHL GoGreen" since 2011. Here, too, the emissions caused by the delivery truck are offset by supporting climate protection projects. This in turn plays into the hands of the founders who rely on the shipping service providers: Because that way you can claim to run a sustainable business... Right?
What does CO2 compensation do for me now?
You can probably already guess: CO2 compensation is, as already mentioned above, a solid support. But no more than that. Of course, it's commendable that even mail-order giants decide to do something for the environment. But first of all, it's about time. Secondly, it's not enough.
For you as a decision maker in e-commerce, offsetting is a good way to go if you want to slowly approach sustainability or see it as an add-on to avoidance. If, on the other hand, you want to go all-in and fulfill your customers' wishes 100%, you have to do more. Because "only" offsetting is neither scalable nor sustainable in the long run.
Offsetting is good in that it supports climate protection projects, which in itself can't be a bad thing. However, no matter how many projects are supported, the pollutants emitted are still in the atmosphere - and won't get out of there very quickly. Because by the time a tree that has grown in the course of a climate project binds sufficient CO2, the CO2 emitted up to that point has done damage to the atmosphere.
Apart from that (to stay with the tree example): Who ensures that trees are not cut down early after reforestation has been completed? How do we even determine how much CO2 a climate protection project avoids? After all, CO2 reporting, i.e. the recording of a company's indirect and direct emission sources, can be quite time-consuming and tedious.
You see: as practical as CO2 offsetting can be, it's a lot of window dressing. Offsetting is often criticized and called a "zero-sum game" or "selling indulgences" because it simply allows companies to buy a clear conscience - unlike CO2 avoidance, which is more complex but more effective:
CO2 avoidance: long-term solution
CO2 avoidance is the non-plus-ultra for e-commerces that want to contribute to a greener future. In contrast to CO2 compensation, the focus here is on preventing emissions from occurring in the first place. This means that instead of offsetting the 500-600g of CO2 per parcel shipped by investing in climate protection projects, some of which only pay off in several years, no CO2 is emitted in the first place.
Because CO2 that is not emitted cannot cause any damage. Logical, right?
Since very few e-commerces avoid CO2 right from the start, introducing avoidance tactics requires some restructuring. For example, you can have your packages delivered by one of the sustainable newcomers instead of a normal logistics provider. At Liefergrün, for example, we've been delivering with eco-friendly electric vans and cargo bikes since our founding.
Our customers' returns are also picked up by e-vans and cargo bikes. This way, they don't have to drive to the next drop-off point and cover the same distance with a combustion engine. The emission-free last mile is not only good for the climate, but also for your customers. After all, sustainable deliveries are becoming increasingly popular: 86% of Germans would opt for environmentally friendly shipping if they had the choice.
We at Liefergrün are not the only ones who have discovered the gap in the market and the urgency for sustainable action. Our competitors such as Budbee, Dropp etc. have also committed themselves to the climate and take care to emit as little CO2 as possible.
It should be mentioned here that emissions can of course not only be avoided in logistics. You can also save CO2 or avoid it altogether in other areas of your company. We have summarized a few tips for you in this blog post.
What does CO2 avoidance do for me now?
Simply put: Only advantages. Of course, rethinking and restructuring requires a certain amount of effort. We can no longer sit back and watch goods being distributed by environmentally harmful delivery trucks, but must take action.
But it is precisely this action that pays off in the end. Because by not only offsetting CO2 emissions, but primarily avoiding them, we are protecting our climate. The pollutants do not enter the atmosphere in the first place, so they do not have to be offset again (which would take a very long time anyway).
If you want to make your company more sustainable and deliver in an environmentally friendly way, there is no way around CO2 avoidance in the long term. Just looking at the figures, which are becoming more and more threatening (keyword: 1.5 degree target), we realize: something has to be done. CO2 emissions must be radically avoided. Although avoidance is better than compensation, it is only a small part of the solution. We all have to pull together and use other levers as well.
CO2 avoidance or compensation?
Not only e-commerce giants like Zalando or new parcel service providers like us have recognized that sustainability must be lived. More and more companies have put CO2 reporting, avoidance and compensation on their agenda. It's clear that other e-commerce companies, parcel service providers and decision-makers want - and need - to follow suit.
But what is the right approach? Although the big (logistics) players, such as DHL, Hermes and others, are setting a supposedly good example by increasingly relying on CO2 offsetting, this cannot be everything. The emissions may be offset, but they are still emitted locally.
Fortunately, in order to protect our environment as best as possible and still not lose out on e-commerce, there are other alternatives. Namely, as already mentioned, complete avoidance. The 146 million tons of CO2 equivalents emitted in 2020 won't just disappear.
What you can do
Therefore: Let's best not create the CO2 at all! Let's focus on solutions that not only appear sustainable, but are sustainable. Because as commendable as supporting climate protection projects is, that alone cannot save the climate.
Rather, avoidance should always come first. For example, by delivering products with environmentally friendly cargo bikes and e-vans (like we do...). Everything that cannot be avoided as a result should be compensated.
Of course, compensating is better than nothing. It is also true that "nobody is perfect" (or: no company is perfect). But in view of the fact that the 1.5 degree target is slowly but surely moving into the unattainable distance, more simply has to be done. For Liefergrün and our customers, "more" means avoiding CO2 - so that our planet doesn't have to struggle with emissions in the first place.
Would you like to learn more about what it means to avoid CO2 and how we are committed to this? Feel free to write to us. Or click through our website for a while.