University of Hull works with Humber company to develop new online tool to help deliveries go green

The University of Hull’s Aura Innovation Centre has joined forces with Hull-based company iParcelBox to develop an online carbon footprint tool to help people make green choices when shopping online.

Over the last few years, online shopping has boomed.  As e-commerce evolves and becomes more mainstream, it brings with it a number of challenges.  Is it better for the environment to get our parcels delivered to our door, or to a pick-up point?  Sometimes it’s hard to know which is the most sustainable option.

iParcelBox has worked with leading academics at the University of Hull to undertake carbon mapping of e-commerce deliveries, creating a calculator which gives both retailers and customers a fair and unbiased comparison of the carbon footprint of different online purchasing options, enabling buyers to make informed decisions as to which delivery method is the greenest.

The journey started when iParcelBox, an innovative parcel delivery solution based in the Humber region, wanted to understand exactly how green their product was.  They provide a smart, secure and weatherproof drop-box, which the customer monitors and controls from their smartphone to securely receive parcels when they’re not home or can’t get to the door.  This means parcels can be securely delivered first time, saving time for both delivery companies and customers, and also cutting down on the greenhouse gas emissions often associated with missed deliveries.

In order to reduce their own corporate emissions, many courier companies are encouraging customers to get their parcels delivered to local hubs, such as pick-up points or lockers, enabling them to claim lower emissions for the last leg of the delivery process.  However, depending on the locations of the parcel pick-up hubs, such claims of environmental benefits from delivery companies ignore the fact that the customer will still have to collect their parcel from the local hub.  This could involve a further journey if not within a short distance – a particular issue for out-of-town online-shoppers for whom walking, cycling or public transport may not be an option.

Paul Needler, iParcelBox’s CEO, knew that the Aura Innovation Centre (AIC) could help support small businesses to accelerate their low carbon innovations into commercialisation, so got in touch to see whether their idea was eligible for support and funding.

The AIC matched iParcelBox up with the University of Hull Business School’s logistics and supply chain expert Dr Sushma Kumari, who leads a masters course in the subject.

Dave Dawson, Innovation Manager at the AIC, said: “The University of Hull has world-class expertise in logistics, so when Paul got in touch I knew there’d be academics who’d love to get their hands on such an innovative and fascinating project.  We were able to secure funding for the project, which paid for the researchers’ time, and the result has been this fantastic online tool.  Given the continued growth of online shopping, the potential for benefits to lowering emissions on deliveries could be a big contribution to meeting net zero targets.”

Paul Needler, CEO at iParcelBox, said: “It’s great that consumers will finally have access to a simple tool they can use to make informed decisions about how to minimise the emissions associated with parcel deliveries, backed up with EU-funded academic research.”

“For a large proportion of the population where collection involves either a dedicated vehicle journey or an extra leg to an existing trip, they may be surprised to find that at-home delivery to a secure location such as iParcelBox could be the greenest option.”

The e-commerce industry has previously suffered from a lack of reliable information for eco-conscious customers to use when considering how they get parcels delivered.  This new tool will deliver accurate, unbiased data to give consumers information on which of the available delivery options will be best for the planet.  This should help customers make an informed decision when it comes to home delivery, and could even start to cause behavioural change – something which can only be good for sustainability.

The myparcel carbon calculator tool is now available for industry and customers to access at