Tag Archives: Sustainability

Amazon Prime Air – A highly sustainable delivery system

Last class we focused on Distribution and how it is related to sustainability. The goal of most businesses is to reduce the ecological footprint of their distribution networks and simultaneously create huge cost savings. For most companies this means switching from Air to Sea, Road to Rail, sharing truck space with other companies, using more efficient vehicles, relocating warehouses and so on. However, Amazon is taking the idea of a sustainable distribution network to another level by revealing their R+D baby called Prime Air.

Amazon Prime Air is a system which utilizes drones to deliver packages from a warehouse to a person’s home or business. This “last mile home” delivery system eliminates the need for delivery trucks and significantly reduces carbon emissions in a highly efficient way. The main consumer benefit that Amazon says Prime Air will provide is product delivery in 30 minutes or less, which is absolutely unheard of. Want to see how it would work?


I’ve always been curious to learn about ordering online and it’s impact on sustainability. Sure ordering online is much more convenient, faster and cheaper than going to the store but what about it’s environmental costs? Ordering online means that maybe one or two items would have to be packed up, shipped, put onto a delivery truck and delivered to your house. If you extrapolate that to a city, thats hundreds or thousands of products that are being individually delivered to people’s doorsteps. Even if you use a route optimizer, I can imagine that this door to door delivery system is very inefficient and uses an insane amount of fuel. I’ve always thought that this process has a much higher impact on the environment than filling up a truck with like items only to have one or two stops at larger stores. But I also know that you must consider the impact of people driving to and from stores, the store’s carbon footprint, etc. So from my limited knowledge, I am not sure if I am able to say if one method is better than the other. However, I can say that Amazon’s Prime Air is definitely better than the status quo.

Using the drones will revolutionize delivery systems because there is no need for any trucks, cars, bikes or any other vehicle and it will take a fraction of the time to deliver. it will significantly reduce Amazon’s environmental footprint because they are eliminating carbon emissions on “the last mile” which is arguably the most inefficient and consumes the most fuel on a per product level, when compared to long distance shipping.

While the Prime Air still needs to undergo thorough testing, address security concerns and adhere to soon to be announced FAA regulations, I think that this is a ground breaking innovation and will change the game from a consumer convenience standpoint, as well as a corporate sustainability one.

Amazon expects Prime Air to be operational sometime in 2015.

What are your thoughts?



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Is This Meal Sustainable?

“Is this sustainable?”

Along with calories and ingredients that’s the question that could be asked by restaurant patrons when ordering food.

With concepts like locally sourced and Farm to Table and certifications such as organic and Ocean Wise, it is becoming a common trend for consumers to be informed about how their food is grown/raised and sourced. Especially in Vancouver it seems as if more and more consumers are demanding this kind of information and restaurants are beginning to be more transparent about their ingredients. A lot of sustainability initiatives are focused around electricity, heat, oil and water consumption but not much attention has been paid towards food.

According to this Greenbiz article the United States Healthful Food Council (USFHC) is launching a program that will increase transparency and provide greater information to consumers about the food they’re eating. The Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) Program “uses third party audits to certify the nutrition and sustainability of foods served at restaurants, as well as caterers and other food service operations.” The REAL Certification uses audits to assess menus and gives out points based on nutrition and sustainable practices. Their goal with the program is to be the LEED certification of the food industry. Businesses with the certification signifies that the food is wholesome, authentic, nutritious and sustainable. Some of the things that the audits will look at are the amount of fruits and vegetables on a menu, preparation methods, portion size, and use of local and organic ingredients.

The program has finished it’s pilot stage and is now being launched in New York, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

While I don’t know the extent of the program’s success rate or if the American public will accept something like this, I really think this is a step in the right direction. Especially for the US where its no secret that their eating habits are not the greatest in the world, I think the REAL program would be great. One of the greatest drivers of sustainability is corporate transparency, and this program makes the restaurant industry much more transparent. Hopefully the program will create more informed consumers who will be able to make smarter decisions when going out to eat. It will also raise more awareness for sustainable growing, sourcing and eating habits. From a business perspective this certification can be a really good thing for business. It will create a point of differentiation from competitors and will allow a business with the REAL Certification to charge a price premium. As the healthy eating and sustainability trends continue to gain momentum and widespread adoption, having the REAL Certification will help a restaurant reap the rewards. I think that this could be  similar to the success that HP enjoyed by adhering to the strictest manufacturing laws in the world before their competitors were forced to by law. It’s innovative, proactive and could be very successful for consumers and businesses alike.

On a more local note, I am unaware of anything so widespread being available in Canada. There are many certifications that operate separately, such as Ocean Wise etc., but nothing that operates as an all-encompassing food sustainability certification. Being in Vancouver, the Ocean Wise certification is very common and almost expected on every restaurant menu and I think that the time is right for something more robust. Its my (biased) opinion that a program such as REAL will probably have a higher chance of adoption and success in Canada instead of the US, and should be seriously considered for implementation.


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Think Twice Before Buying Patagonia

“We ask our customers to think twice before you buy a jacket from us. Do you really need it, or are you just bored?” – Yvon Chouinard

It may seem odd that a consumer goods company is preaching anti-consumption behaviour, but for Patagonia it is a principle that hits to the core of their business.

In a 2013 interview at the Greenbiz Forum in San Francisco, Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard , had said that growth and the current way of thinking are big threats to achieving sustainability. The problem is that companies are always looking to grow and expand – to sell more. That has lead to society becoming full of consumers, instead of citizens. Our society operates in a Jevon’s Paradox, meaning companies have produced energy efficient products that provide cost savings, yet consumers view this as an opportunity to purchase more than before.

We live in an “Apple world” where it is easier to purchase a brand new product and create more waste instead of attempting to fix something. Chouinard argues that some companies intentionally design products that are easily broken and hard to fix because they just want people to buy more of their products.

In contrast, Patagonia is looking to slow growth with an anti-consumption advertising campaign and created The Common Threads Initiative. Patagonia is a company that has been operating sustainably since the 1980’s and calculates the potential environmental impact of all of their actions. They’re telling customers to ask themselves if they truly need another product before they buy and to become citizens of the world once again.

My Thoughts

I really think Patagonia hit a home run with this. I know it goes against everything a marketer is taught, but what really matters is that Patagonia is staying true to their corporate values. Although this is very risky and may have a negative impact on their sales in the short term, it shows consumers how much integrity the company has and how it genuinely cares about the environment. I also agree with what Mr. Chouinard was saying when he talked about Apple products and how too many products these days are designed to break, become obsolete or just be thrown away. This is why Patagonia’s approach is like a breath of fresh air.

I think this strengthens the brand and will make consumers hold the company in a higher regard. The anti-consumption campaign has created some shared value in a way. Rather than throwing money at a charity or conduct some other CSR initiative, Patagonia looked at the impact of their own operations. In my eyes anti-consumption is a win-win; Consumers will be coerced to buy less and save more money, while Patagonia maintains it’s environmental focus and has a strengthened brand image.

I found this very interesting because it made me think back to an example in my Sustainable Marketing class about an Innocent Smoothies “Chain of Good” campaign seen here.  Essentially, they are committing 10% of all sales to an unnamed charity that provides impoverished nations with means to succeed. This means they want people to consume more because that will lead to more charitable donations. How sustainable is that? In my opinion it is more of a marketing tactic aimed to increase sales, rather than a genuine initiative. After reading about what Patagonia was doing with the Innocent Smoothies example in the back of my mind, I really believe that Patagonia is doing a great job and deserves to be commended.

Job well done, Patagonia.


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