If you think consumers won’t pay for sustainable delivery, think again

Given the prominence of e-commerce and trends such as same or next-day delivery, order fulfillment has a significant impact on the environment. At the same time, the concept of sustainability is gaining more play in every facet of life, including business. So when it comes time to check a box and select a delivery option, are customers actually willing to sacrifice to have products delivered in ways that don’t yield damaging greenhouse gas emissions?

West Monroe Partners recently surveyed more than 600 consumers across the US and Canada to understand the compromises they are willing to make for more sustainable delivery of products purchased online. This survey effectively duplicated a European survey conducted by our alliance partner, BearingPoint, which found that consumers are willing to pay higher prices and/or wait longer for sustainable delivery.

Going in, we hypothesized that results would be much different in the United States, for a variety of reasons—including a higher concentration of people in cities in Europe, higher fuel prices and more mature EU regulation. And when sustainability comes up in conversation with our clients and others, we regularly hear something along the lines of this: “Of course it’s important—our customers want it, but they aren’t willing to bear the burden.”

In fact, we found just the opposite. Similar to European respondents, many US consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable delivery and even more say they are willing to wait at least an extra day for climate-friendly transport. The big difference between continents lies in awareness; US consumers are mostly unaware that such delivery options exist. In part, this can be attributed to the fact that North American retailers offer less options and don’t promote them as effectively.

We will release the survey results soon, but there is a strong message to Corporate America that doesn’t need to wait.

If you believe in the prevailing wisdom, you’re wrong. Today’s consumers are paying more than lip service to environmentally conscious decisions, and plenty are willing to put their money—and their patience—where their mouth is, provided they are aware of their options. There doesn’t have to be a law for there to be pressure to act. And those that already have demonstrated willingness to do so, when aware, (Gen Y) will be the corporate leaders and decision makers of the next decades.

Long story short: Your operations must begin getting “greener,” and you need to be planning for that now. If you don’t have a road map to demonstrate how you are making supply chain more sustainable, you are exposing your business to customer and shareholder risk.

The hard part, of course, is knowing where to start. Like many things, this is a journey, not a destination—and making progress along the way is critical to longer term success. There is no need to completely transform your supply chain operations overnight but a few, targeted actions can go a long way.

This is the first in a blog series that will look at some potential areas of change in each key component of the supply chain.

Phone: 312-602-4000
Email: marketing@westmonroepartners.com
222 W. Adams
Chicago, IL 60606
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