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Champions of sustainability

Off the back of a record year, which saw CouriersPlease peak period reach a 150 per cent year-on-year increase, MHD sits down with Mark McGinley, CEO at the business to find out more about the franchised parcel delivery service and its sustainability goals.

During the coronavirus pandemic, CouriersPlease delivered a record volume of parcels. With more than 80 per cent year-on-year growth throughout 2020, and a remarkable 150 per cent year-on-year increase across the Cyber Weekend, Christmas and Boxing Day sales period, the business is growing at a rapid rate.

“We had to open six new facilities in 2020 to cope with the increase in volumes. We also had a 50 per cent increase in franchisees and delivery partners since COVID led to a spike in online retail, as well as a 55 per cent increase in employees across our network,” Mark McGinley, CEO at CouriersPlease tells MHD.

With COVID-19 driving e-commerce volumes to previously predicted 2023-24 levels, CouriersPlease has been on a strategic shift in direction.

“We’re very focused on developing our services in the e-commerce space. We’ve made a strategic decision to shift from a metro courier company, to an e-commerce technology company,” Mark says.

Mark is frank about the fact that many of Australia’s leading carriers struggled with the rise in volume initially, and when it reached unprecedented levels around Christmas. However, CouriersPlease was quick to adapt and opened five new facilities in three weeks as well as invested significantly in its infrastructure, technology, equipment and people.

“We’ve learnt lots of lessons from last year, and we will bring these learnings into 2021 with a total network review and the aim of increasing our footprint so that we can meet consumer expectations,” he says.

A commitment to a carbon neutral future

A major focus for CouriersPlease is sustainability, and according to recent consumer research carried out by the company, it’s a priority the business shares with its customer base.

“Our research found that 87 per cent of all Australian shoppers are more likely to purchase products that are ethically and sustainability produced. Furthermore, 85 per cent wanted retailers to be more transparent about their procurement processes and sustainability practices,” Mark says.

As a carrier, offering its customer base sustainable and responsible options around last mile delivery is a major priority for the business.

“The younger generation are prepared to pay more for sustainable products and delivery options. We are seeing a significant increase in younger consumers making purchasing decisions that reflect their values and we believe this trend is set to continue,” Mark says.

In response to this, CouriersPlease is on a mission to be the carrier who can meet these expectations.

“Last year we had our carbon emissions audited by the Carbon Reduction Institute (CRI) to find out what our baseline is. From here, we set up targets ­– one of which is to be completely carbon neutral by 2030,” Mark says.

While this target may sound like a tough task, CouriersPlease is already well on the way to meeting its goals. “We’ve already offset 100 per cent of our operational emissions,” Mark says. “Since July last year we’ve also offset 10 per cent of our last mile deliveries.”

It is widely known that the last mile is one of the most inefficient and carbon intensive aspects of an e-commerce delivery. This is largely due to a large volume of vans on the roads, delivering to individual residencies across the city throughout the day.

“All carriers are looking for efficient ways to get the end product to the consumer, and this doesn’t necessarily mean delivering  to people’s homes,” Mark explains.

CouriersPlease is currently exploring more innovative ways to improve the environmental impact of this part of their business model and has taken steps to improve its route and fleet optimisation offering as well as rolling out a 100 per cent carbon neutral satchel across its nationwide network.

“We’re also exploring options around Click and Collect, using our long-term partner, Hubbed, an e-commerce start-up that has over 2000 pickup and drop off points around the country. We’re also investing in a series of micro-hubs, whereby we bring consolidated freight into the micro-hub and from there we are exploring last mile delivery using bikes, e-bikes or electric vehicles,” Mark says.

For Mark, consolidating deliveries is an important part of the puzzle in reducing the environmental impact of last mile deliveries.

“Some cities in Europe are working on a partnership model where all carriers can access a number of delivery points to drop off, and one carrier handles the last mile from there, resulting in better route optimisation and efficiency gains,” Mark says.

However, according to Mark, in Australia there is a lack of Government incentive and funding to support electric vehicles. “When we compare ourselves to European cities who have emissions targets to meet and incentives to get there, we are really falling behind. I think all of us carriers would like to see more support from the Government in this space,” he says.

Is the consumer onboard?

While consumers expectations are rising, with same day and next day delivery on the rise. Mark suggests that consumers will be happy to explore other options around delivery if they are well-communicated and convenient.

“Home delivery is very expensive for the carriers, and not sustainable at the current level of volumes we have. Carriers simply can’t afford to keep absorbing the last mile cost, so we’re working with retailers to empower consumers to make the choice. If they want a home delivery then that will potentially incur a cost. But we can offer consumers other low-cost sustainable options such as picking the item up from a parcel locker or local convenience outlet,” Mark says.

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