As a small business owner with orders to fulfill, the environmental impact of your logistics probably isn’t a top priority. But transport pumping out 27% of the UK’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions should concern you.
Road vehicles are responsible for a staggering 91% of these emissions, with vans and HGVs contributing over a third.
Without HGVs and vans, there are no logistics. But being such heavy polluting vehicles means that it’s time to make changes in the way we move goods.
In this article, we highlight the UK’s green logistics companies. You’ll see how they move freight at the lowest carbon cost, and even better, who’s committed to a net zero future.
And by choosing one of these providers, you’ll not only get the services you need, but also reduce your SME’s environmental impact!
Recommended green logistics
Consider DPD if your business needs standard logistics services. Of all the logistics companies we reviewed, their response to climate change was the best, as it directly tackles the UK’s biggest emissions sources; transport and energy. They currently have over 700 electric delivery vans operating throughout the UK. And there are plans to increase this to over 1500.
DPD Group also publishes live environmental policy stats on their site for everyone to see. This means that they are keeping the public in the loop surrounding their green efforts.
But if DPD won’t meet your needs, then consider Yodel (not Yodel Direct). Although they currently only have one electric vehicle in their fleet, Yodel has managed to cut carbon emissions by 25% over the last five years.
Contributing to this is a 27% reduction in delivery fleet fuel consumption, and telemetry technology to reduce mileage by 1 million kilometres in 2021. In some UK cities, they also deliver packages by bicycle. And in 2021, this removed the need for hundreds of delivery van journeys in London alone.
Mitigating a quarter of their overall environmental impact since 2016 is a huge step in the right direction, but it doesn’t make Yodel perfect. Transport is the UK’s biggest carbon offender, so as a logistics firm, they must now turn their attention to an electric delivery fleet. Using telemetry software and delivery bicycles only postpones the inevitable. The fact is that electric vehicles are the solution.
Because of this, DPD should always be your first option, despite not reporting overall carbon emissions reduction like Yodel.
And finally, for ad hoc or bespoke logistics, choose CitySprint. For a lesser-known company, they’re showing how it’s done. All premises run on 100% renewable electricity, and they plan to offset all remaining emissions by 2023.
*Update: as of January 2022 CitySprint has been acquired by DPD Group.
Green logistics companies
Here’s our shortlist of UK logistics companies with good sustainability policies. None are perfect, but they’ve made changes to help in the fight against global warming.
The larger companies have made greater, more widespread changes. But being much larger operations means that their emissions are still astronomical compared to the smaller firms’.
|2050 net zero commitment or earlier
|No EVs in fleet
(first to last)
|Commitment to carbon neutrality but no mention of by when
|Yes — but not transparently
with plans to increase
By summer 2022: 3300
|Not officially — website contains some figures
|Exact number unknown, but they operate ebikes, emotorbikes, electric vans, and push bikes
|Covers all aspects of business but not as effective as other companies’
|They state the goal of net zero but not by when
|The Green Group
|Covers all aspects of business but not as effective as other companies’
Green logistics environmental policies
Hermes UK (formally known as MyHermes) is the UK branch of global logistics giant Hermes Group.
They offer UK small businesses a bespoke service, and are one of the largest parcel delivery firms in the country.
The company claims to be onboard with net zero, and has the ambitious goals of:
- Direct and indirect net zero emissions by 2035
- 20% reduction in building energy consumption per parcel by 2030
To hit these targets, some of their actions to date, amongst others include:
- Signing the UN Race to Zero Climate Pledge
- Being the first UK parcel company to successfully trial electric HGVs
- Use of biofuel alternative vehicles which reduce GHG emissions by 80%
- Ordering 168 zero-emission Mercedes-Benz eSprinters to service out of home ParcelShop network
- Alternative returns and packaging solutions to reduce waste
- Intelligent building design to harness natural light, as well as using renewable electricity.
Hermes’ sustainability goals are industry-leading, and they publish emissions stats for everyone to see.
But for a company of their size, it would be reassuring to see a greater commitment to electric vehicles.
However, through extensive use of compressed natural gas fuels, carbon emissions continue to reduce across all aspects of delivery journeys.
Yodel is doing a great job of lowering carbon emissions whilst still delivering parcels at cheap rates. Next-day delivery starts at £2.79, and since 2015, carbon emissions have been cut by 25%.
They achieved this through several means:
- Ensuring all vehicles meet ultra-low emissions zones (ULEZ) and clean air zone (CAZ) standards
- Slashed fuel consumption by 27% since 2016
- Bike couriers operating in seven locations
- Kitting fleet vehicles out with tires made using 70% less natural resources
The company has been trialling alternative fuels as well as electric vehicles, although at the moment only has one electric HGV.
Yodel Direct will appeal more if you need ad hoc logistics. With the same rates as Yodel, from a cost perspective, they’re great for small retailers. They operate under the Yodel umbrella but are owned and managed by the courier-comparison website Parcel2Go.
The Parcel2Go website contains zero sustainability info, so it’s unclear whether they share Yodel’s green ideals.
Yodel’s next step should be to add electric vehicles to their delivery fleet. But a nomination for Leadership in Emissions Reductions national awards 2021 shows they’re heading in the right direction.
DHL is a great option for SME parcel deliveries. The next day UK delivery starts at £2.79, and they compare prices to remain competitive.
Their sustainability policy isn’t too shabby either. It covers aviation, last mile of delivery, and buildings, and by 2030 the company aims to:
- Electrify 60% of last-mile delivery vehicles
- Increase its global share of green electricity to more than 90%
- Use sustainable energy sources for heating in more than 50% of buildings
- Increase the use of more sustainable aviation fuel blends
Whilst continuing to:
- Support development and market availability of hydrogen and electric trucks
- Incentivise subcontractors adopt green transport solutions through standards, education, and incentives
- Put drivers through eco-friendly training programs
- Convert locally produced electricity from renewable sources into fuels for their electrified fleet
DHL is tackling carbon emissions across their entire operation and has put together a nice roadmap detailing all of their efforts.
Royal Mail has a great reputation as the nation’s most popular delivery company, and same day business parcel delivery rates start at £3.58.
In line with the Paris Agreement, Royal Mail Group wants to be net zero by 2050. For the next five years, their focus is on reducing scope 1 emissions from delivery fleets and business premises.
Key actions already taken include:
- Installing telemetry devices in over 81% of the entire fleet, improving fuel economy and saving 1,440 tonnes of CO2 since 2019
- Fitting vehicles with solar panels to reduce reliance on the fuel-burning engine
- Incorporating over 1,000 alternative fuel vehicles across the delivery fleet
- Announcing a further 3000 electric vehicles to be added from summer 2021
For an organisation of their size to achieve net zero 2050, Royal Mail has to combat scope 2 emissions as well. They plan on doing this by working with suppliers and partners to mitigate emissions throughout the supply chain. However, more details on this would be ideal.
The DPD Group, also known as Geopost has two UK subsidiaries, DPD UK and Interlink/DPD local.
Both subsidiaries’ next-day delivery rates start at £3.99/parcel. But as DPD Local’s corporate social responsibility policy seems more like a bunch of buzzwords, we recommend DPD UK.
Their sustainability policy is better, and the company is greenifying many areas:
- Over 700 electric vehicles operating in Wales, England and Scotland
- The development of nationwide all-electric micro-depots
- Making plastic delivery bags from at least 80% reclaimed materials, and the bags themselves 100% recyclable
- Powering hub buildings with renewable electricity
- Donating over £200,000 to UK environmental projects since January 2020
DPD doesn’t seem to be taking aviation action quite like DHL, but their 700 electric vehicles are a huge contribution towards reducing UK road transport emissions!
CitySprint is a same-day delivery expert. Prices depend on needs, but expect to pay a couple of pounds more for minimum next-day delivery rates than DHL or Hermes.
This logistics firm is particularly good for creative and IT SMEs, with services tailored to these industries.
Despite being a smaller business themselves, they’re pulling their weight for the environment :
- All premises run on 100% renewable energy
- At least one electric vehicle in each of the major cities in which they operate
- The largest bike-courier fleet in London
- Mileage software in delivery fleets to help improve fuel economy
But what about their future commitments?
By the end of 2021, the company will no longer consume single-use plastic. And by the end of 2023, plans on carbon offsetting all remaining emissions.
Offsetting isn’t a final solution to carbon emissions, and at some point, CitySprint will need to electrify their fleet. But until that happens, it’s better to offset the remaining emissions than do nothing at all.
EcoSpeed is a bespoke urgent courier and transport service that specializes in fragile, abnormal, and difficult-to-handle loads.
You’ll need to get a quote to get rates for your business, but know that these guys have a soft spot for mother nature.
The company donates 10% of profits to the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, and through vehicle remapping, has managed to reduce emissions in some of their diesel trucks by over 27%.
Further actions include:
- Minimise office paper use through increased use of electronic communication
- Reducing office energy consumption
- Investing in their fleet to increase fuel efficiency and use alternative fuels like LPG and biofuels
A few more details and some stats on how exactly EcoSpeed plans on becoming carbon neutral, and by when would be more encouraging.
But that said, it’s great to see a small logistics company providing their services with the environment in mind!
Unlike all the other companies on the list, The Green Group is dedicated to logistics without a courier service. They can transport a range of goods, and you can also hire their vehicles to haul your trailers.
Despite the company name, their environmental policy won’t blow you away, but they have made lots of little changes. To back these up they’re also certified to EU environmental management standards.
Tracking software helps plan routes to avoid congestion areas, improving fuel efficiency. And vehicles themselves are also optimised, with the fleet boasting a 5 Star Eco rating. This means:
- Monitoring fuel consumption and spend
- Driver training in safe and fuel efficient techniques
- Regular tyre inspection and wheel alignment checking
- Use of performance indicators and setting targets for continuous improvement
Building energy use has also been reduced. LED motion sensor lighting is installed, and with digital alternatives, paper usage is kept to a minimum.
Logistics and transport emissions
Eradicating your SME roadside emissions is impossible. But choosing one of the green logistics companies we reviewed will reduce them, without affecting your deliveries.
And along with changes to logistics, to further reduce transport emissions, you can consider driving an electric vehicle (EV).
They’re already cheaper to run and maintain than petrol/diesel vehicles, and the government offers plenty of grants and tax breaks to help businesses with the cost of buying!