It’s time to get smart about sustainability in South Africa’s parcel delivery sector


At a time when finding ways to mitigate and reduce climate change is more important than ever, it’s a matter of conscience and sustainability for every business to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint, and their overall impact on the environment.

It’s simply the right thing to do, as people everywhere change their habits to lead more sustainable lifestyles, whether it’s avoiding single use plastics, buying more local items, or choosing brands that have more sustainable business practices. 

DPD Laser research shows that 69% of regular e-commerce shoppers expect brands and manufactures to be more sustainable, and that 65% of regular online shoppers will prefer to shop at online retailers that offer a more sustainable delivery solution. At the same time, 41% of regular online shoppers are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products. 

Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts is one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG), which is why DPD Laser in its global and South African operations aims to place actions to mitigate climate change at the heart of our operations and growth.

However, there are some things that just cannot be changed: parcel delivery companies in South Africa have no other option but to drive their fleets of internal combustion engine vehicles to get the job done. The UNSDG framework even recognises that transportation is one of the few sectors that’s extremely difficult to decarbonise. 

At present, electric vehicles are simply not an option for us, due to the extremely high import duties applied to this solution, along with unpredictable electricity supply. 

If the most obvious solution isn’t available, it’s time to get creative – which is what DPD Laser has done in our drive to become the international reference in sustainable delivery, and a leading enabler of e-commerce acceleration. 

We started with the basics: we use a reputable fleet management company to collect energy consumption data about the vehicles we use, which supports green fleet management by highlighting aggressive driving behaviour, excessive idling, and other environmentally harmful activities that burn more fuel and cause more emissions. We counsel our drivers and explain the importance of driving more safely and efficiently. 

We support this strategy with proactive vehicle maintenance, which has been proved to keep emissions as low as possible. 

We also use the fleet management system to calculate the total CO2 emissions generated by our fleet, and we’ve partnered with Credible Carbon, a South African registry that promotes access to the global carbon market, offering access to local poverty-alleviating carbon offset projects. 

Each month, DPD Laser buys carbon offset credits in response to 3.75 tonnes of carbon, with this money used to fund local projects that focus on alleviating poverty by improving the land and livelihoods of severely disadvantaged communities. 

We contribute to Credible Carbon’s project in Kuyasa, a low-carbon housing development in one of the poorest and most vulnerable parts of Khayelitsha, supporting the maintenance of solar water heaters and setting up food gardens to support early childhood development centres.

In Uitenhage, ReCarbon Ground Trading produces certified organic compost for use by farmers, landscapers, and gardeners by diverting food, liquid waste, and sawmill matter from landfill. 

We support the Stellenbosch Community Recycling project that assists local government and the community to realise the importance of recycling, creating work opportunities for local ‘waste-preneurs’. 

The ReCarbon Hermanus project entails diverting green waste from gardens and parks to a composting site. This project tackles soil degradation, and supports agricultural activity, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and promotes water security and drought resilience. 

In addition to these carbon offset projects and a number of other simple but smart operational choices that reduce our overall impact, the DPD Laser teams spend time on charity days investing in local communities. We also use our distribution service to provide transport for various charities at low or zero cost, including supporting the SPCA, the Reach for a Dream Foundation, and local schools. 

The owner-driver network we use for more than half of our deliveries includes mostly micro or small enterprises, and in 2022, our project to sell company-owned vehicles to employees wanting to start their own delivery businesses was very successful. We provided business support and guaranteed routes so that these brave new entrepreneurs had every chance of success. 

It’s been clear to us, all along, that we have no option but to use vehicles that cause carbon emissions as we support our clients by delivering goods to their customers. It’s just as clear though, that DPD Laser has to operate with as little impact on the environment as possible, and we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, and of our further plans for the future to do just that.

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