The environmental impact of missed deliveries

By Paazl
July 11, 2018

The well-oiled machine that is e-commerce delivery has one major stumbling block in terms of sustainability. Customers are not at home to collect their deliveries! Hardly surprising really seeing as delivery carriers do the bulk of their work during the day when most people are out. Once a delivery has been missed once who’s to say that it won’t be missed again? And at what cost? Let’s take a look at exactly what the environmental impact of missed deliveries is.

The carbon emissions caused by missed deliveries

A study conducted by Julia Edwards of Heriot-Watt University explores this very topic. The findings show that if a van is out for delivery and half of the items in the van fail to be delivered the carbon emissions of the van are 50% higher than if all the deliveries were successful.

The graph below is based on the information in the study. The van’s carbon footprint clearly increases as the number of missed deliveries increases. The study assumes the van attempts a second delivery in the same working shift increasing its mileage and emissions.

An inevitable outcome of missed deliveries is subsequent delivery attempts and the customer ultimately collecting the item from a warehouse. The study looks at this outcome too, and the results are shocking. If the customer travels by car to a warehouse 25 miles away, the round trip will produce the same amount of emissions as 26 delivery attempts.

Reducing the environmental impact of missed deliveries

Now we know the environmental impact of missed deliveries, let’s take a look at how brands and carriers are putting a stop to it.

Letterbox-sized packaging

A number of brands are trying to combat the issue of missed deliveries by packaging their items in letterbox-sized bundles. UK-based flower delivery brand Bloom&Wild are one such company. Their flowers are hand-packed in protective packaging and sent out when they are in bud so they fit through the letterbox. A great solution!

Pick-up points

Of course not everything we order online can fit through the letterbox. In that case pick-up points are a great option. Customers collect the item at their convenience saving the delivery van from additional mileage and emissions.

The question of sustainability with pick-up points comes with the customers’ mode of transport. In urban areas the journey to the pick-up point is usually shorter. So the customer is more likely to travel by carbon-efficient means such as foot, bike or public transport. In suburban and rural areas the distance to the pick-up point could be pretty far. The larger the distance the more likely the customer is to travel by inefficient means.

The study shows that when an additional vehicle is needed – in this case the customer’s car – the emissions increase dramatically. If the customer travels to the pick-up point by car it may be more sustainable to wait for another delivery attempt.

Evening and weekend delivery

Why not simply deliver the item when the customer is home? ASOS offer a whole menu of delivery options including evening, weekend and precise delivery. By tailoring their delivery times to suit their customers, ASOS reduce their number of missed deliveries and the emissions that come from subsequent delivery attempts.


Missed deliveries are one of the major stumbling blocks in e-commerce delivery. Brands know this and are acting upon it. By adjusting the packaging or offering more delivery options, the number of missed deliveries reduces and so does the environmental impact.

Looking for ways to make your online brand more sustainable?

Join us for our webinar where we will be discussing green and clean delivery with leading sustainable carriers, Stuart.

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