The impact of parcel delivery on emissions

On December 5, 1952, a layer of lethal smog would descend on the city of London. As the day progressed, the yellowish-brown fog would become so thick that residents could not see their feet as they walked. Also known as the Great Smog, this event brought the whole city to a near standstill for almost a week and resulted in thousands of deaths.It would also mark a turning point in the history of environmentalism as it prompted the UK to enact stricter laws about air pollution and the passing of the Clean Air Act in 1956.

Rebecca Sundqvist
June 15, 2022
min read

Deliveries and pollution in numbers

Today, London is still the most congested and polluted city in the UK. Ever since the passing of the Clean Air Act, London has been trying to improve air quality and tackle congestion, with the most recent initiative by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who set a target to make the city net-zero carbon by 2030.

It might not come as a big surprise to hear that transportation is the biggest cause of London's air pollution. Road vehicles produce nearly half of all nitrogen oxides and emit rubber and metal particles into the air we breathe.

According to this Centre for London report, freight and deliveries account for a quarter of London's total carbon emissions from transport. With the explosion in parcel volume due to the rise of e-commerce, the number of parcels delivered in London is expected to double by 2030. That means more vehicles, more local pollution, and, most critically, more CO₂ emissions.

Globally, transport will be the biggest source of new greenhouse gas emissions until 2050. According to a report by the World Economic Forum, without any intervention, the number of delivery vehicles in the top 100 cities worldwide will increase by 36% until 2030. Consequently, emissions from delivery traffic will increase by 32%, and congestion will rise by over 21%.

The better way

It's not too late to make a change: there are many ways to create more efficient logistics systems and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Overall, WEF notes that cities need to prioritise sustainability-related matters, much like the net-zero carbon initiative by the Mayor of London. Other topics include freeing inner-city traffic zones from congestion and increasing street safety.

London also has a lot of potential for sustainable deliveries: higher residential densities mean the viability of smaller and more eco-friendly vehicles, like cargo bikes. Furthermore, high density leads to closer and more local deliveries.

Another key recommendation from the Centre for London is the electrification of vehicles and funding upgrades to power distribution networks. European Energy Agency points out that electric vehicles are anticipated to be an essential future component of Europe's mobility system, helping reduce impacts on climate change and air quality.

All electric

HIVED is committed to only ever using electric vehicles, and we are always actively looking at ways to ensure that our impact is as low as possible. But even then, there are challenges.

If we look at HIVED's current impact, we are 100% zero-emission for direct emissions and emissions from energy used. However, it's important to know that EVs still have environmental effects, depending on how they're charged up and manufactured. And we're not yet able to compensate for emissions from the manufacturing process of our vehicles.

With that being said, experts generally agree that EVs are still the better and greener option. According to ICCT, International Council on Clean Transportation, EVs are much cleaner than internal combustion engine cars over their lifetime: today, a typical electric vehicle produces just half the greenhouse gas emissions of an average European passenger car.

Nonetheless, our work is not done, and we're always looking to improve. If you have any suggestions or want to tell us about more sustainable alternatives for our business practices, please feel free to get in touch with us at

For the latest updates, make sure to follow us on Twitter @HivedHQ, Instagram @hivedhq or TikTok @hivedhq.

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