In recent years, a growing number of people have chosen to avoid crowded shopping malls by doing their holiday shopping online. To a certain extent, online shopping reduces their carbon footprint by keeping these individuals from driving to and from the store. However, their packages still have to be delivered. What if postal customers could choose to have carbon neutral delivery for an extra fee?
In 2009, Itella, Finland’s postal service, introduced a program where customers could pay extra for carbon neutral delivery, adding the “Itella Green” marking to letters for less than a penny or parcels for around five cents. Itella achieved carbon neutrality through a combination of energy efficient delivery vehicles by funding reputable, environmentally-friendly projects. While Itella’s plans include increasing carbon efficiency in all three phases of the package delivery process: sorting, transportation, and delivery, the greatest carbon efficiency gains currently come from their shift to electric or fuel efficient delivery vehicles.
On February 1 Itella made the cost of carbon neutrality a standard part of all postage, making it the first country to offer completely carbon neutral delivery. That way, when a customer uses Itella to send a letter, package, or direct mail, they know they are getting zero net emissions. Through their efforts, Itella has made carbon neutral delivery, a key element in developing a “green” reputation and an advantage in competitive areas like package delivery.
Is offering carbon neutral delivery as a separate, specialized service that customers can purchase an idea worth exploring for the Postal Service? The Postal Service is already in the process of converting its delivery fleet to cleaner electric vehicles, making carbon neutrality easier to achieve in the coming years. Moreover, does it make sense to give consumers a choice in terms of the environmental friendliness of their mail delivery?
This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).