Sustainable E-commerce: The Time Is Now

By Kawal Preet | June 4, 2021

In making sustainable e-commerce a reality, the conversation is no longer about why. It’s how and when we combine strategy and action to make an impact.

There are actions that keep the world moving, and there are actions that protect its future. COVID-19 has proven this – and shown just how essential global trade is to our future. Of course, air express has helped our world combat the crisis, keeping critical supply chains open to make sure much-needed goods are delivered - from personal protective equipment (PPE) to vaccine supplies.

At the same time, we’ve seen just how critical our industry is in accommodating the massive growth of e-commerce and meeting fast-changing consumer demands.

But there’s another essential consideration we face for our future. Achieving true sustainability in global e-commerce means ensuring we responsibly and resourcefully connect the planet. A significant endeavor, especially as demand for e-commerce and international air express will remain high for the foreseeable future. Our view is that strategy, combined with strong action, is the way global commerce will navigate its way to a cleaner future.

AMEA has a crucial role in what’s next

The Asia, Africa and Middle East (AMEA) region has a crucial role to play in making that happen - with its huge e-commerce market, large population of digital natives, and two of the world’s fastest growing nations in China and India.

The global trade recovery is being led by East Asia. The region is leading the revolution in cross-border e-commerce: Asia’s e-commerce market is tipped to reach US$1.6 trillion in revenue in 2021. At FedEx, e-commerce is driving significant growth. So exactly how Asia Pacific (APAC) pursues a sustainable future will have far-reaching impact beyond this part of the world.

Governments are stepping up targets to reduce emissions and Asia is already making progress on sustainability. Japan and South Korea lead APAC in sustainable trade policies which advance economic, environmental and social measures. They’re followed by Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

What’s more, the acceleration of digital innovation during the pandemic has been good for the environment. Online shopping, paperless transactions, and contactless delivery are changing lives in a digital economy anticipated to add US$1 trillion to Asia’s GDP in the next 10 years. In our view, building our business to serve cross-border commerce of this scale in a sustainable way requires bold vision - with a clear goal and commitment to innovation.

Ambition and action in equal measure

Achieving true sustainability in aviation has long proven to be an intractable problem. Right now, there are few viable alternatives to replace carbon-based jet fuels. Even so, there is still much we can do. As a company, we’re setting global goals that are ambitious but realistic, wide-ranging and achievable.

One of the goals we’ve set is to make our global operations carbon neutral by 2040. That’s no small feat given our industry and scale. It will outpace goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement by a decade.
Just how will we do that? By investing $2 billion into three key areas - vehicle electrification, sustainable energy, and carbon sequestration.

Of that investment, FedEx is pledging $100 million to Yale University to help establish the Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture. This will accelerate research into methods of carbon sequestration at scale, with an initial focus on helping to offset greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to current airline emissions.

That’s just one example of ambitious yet realistic action. Not just solving problems in the aviation sector, but developing solutions to reduce other global sources of emissions - which can then be shared with businesses and governments.

And by 2030, our goal is that all FedEx Express parcel pickup and delivery (PUD) vehicle purchases will be electric. By 2040, we’re aiming for the entire PUD fleet to be zero-emission electric vehicles.

Reduce, replace, revolutionize

This simply reinforces our long-established ‘Reduce, Replace, Revolutionize’ sustainability approach which is based on multiplying efficiencies at FedEx - across aircraft efficiency, vehicle efficiency, sustainable facilities, and sustainable materials and recycling. Throughout our network, we’re constantly looking for ways to support the emerging circular economy and reduce environmental impact.

We continue to build sustainable infrastructure with state-of the-art technology, such as the new FedEx Southern Africa hub in Johannesburg, in support of growing Asia-Africa trade. And our digital solutions recently rolled-out in Singapore and Hong Kong, providing paperless, mobile shipping that helps customers contribute to reducing our paper footprint.

We also support small business customers with cloud-based circular operations and sustainable products, even donating our old wooden shipping pallets to be upcycled into furniture in the Philippines.

Collaboration is key to our collective future

Addressing climate change is much bigger than one business. Together we must work on responsible policy and innovative solutions for the health of our planet .

Such future-focused strategies are key to our collective future and support of sustainable trade. That’s why we’re focused on discovering and adopting cutting edge technology and solutions that will deliver impact. Addressing climate change is much bigger than one business. Together we must work on responsible policy and innovative solutions for the health of our planet .

We know it will take much greater collaboration and partnerships across all sectors - companies, governments, institutions, scientists, and communities combined. It will require both complex and simple solutions, both large and small steps. And it will take many different strategies working together at the same time to create real results.

For more information on how we’re working for environmental good, check out our 2021 Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) report here.
Addressing climate change is much bigger than one business. Together we must work on responsible policy and innovative solutions for the health of our planet .

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About the Author
authors photo

Kawal Preet

President,
Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, FedEx Express

Kawal started out as a FedEx engineer in Singapore over 20 years ago, and she’s now the President of FedEx Express AMEA. Kawal is based in Hong Kong.

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