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Understanding the Challenges Facing Decarbonization in the E-Commerce Logistics Sector in Latin America

Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad del Montevideo, Av. Dra. María Luisa Saldún de Rodríguez 2097, Montevideo 11500, Uruguay
Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad del Pacífico, Jr. Sánchez Cerro 2141, Jesús María, Lima 15072, Peru
Department of Transportation Engineering and Geotechnics, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte 31270-901, Brazil
Laboratoire Ville Mobilité Transport, University Gustave Eiffel, 14 BD Newton, Champs-sur-Marne, 77454 Marne-la-Vallée CEDEX 2, France
Fundação Dom Cabral, Nova Lima 30140-083, Brazil
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2023, 15(22), 15718;
Submission received: 7 October 2023 / Revised: 1 November 2023 / Accepted: 5 November 2023 / Published: 8 November 2023


This article aims to analyze the opportunities related to improvement in the decarbonization strategies of the logistics sector, considering the economic, environmental, social, and technological challenges in four Latin American countries: Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Uruguay. An original survey of 464 logistics companies involved in e-commerce in these four countries was carried out. From an economic point of view, companies have started to understand that being greener is not just a slogan but can be an opportunity for growth. The social pressure of customers for more sustainable supply chains forces companies to look for alternatives to reduce their environmental footprint. Finally, adding technology makes it possible to measure and monitor parameter indicators and look for alternatives to improve them (such as routing algorithms, electric vehicles, smart lockers, etc.). Decarbonization in the e-commerce logistics sector in Latin American countries still has room for improvement (for example, using metrics and electric vehicles) to match the levels of companies with similar characteristics in European, Asian, or North American countries.

1. Introduction

The growth of connectivity in different cities has led to a significant increase in e-commerce. In turn, the COVID-19 health crisis significantly impacted e-commerce. Regarding digitalization, online deliveries increased by many years in just eight weeks of lockdowns in Spring 2020, especially in Asian Pacific countries [1]. Latin America is also an expanding e-commerce market, with 300 million digital buyers [2].
E-commerce and urban logistics are deeply connected. The development of new distribution methods, the optimization of last-mile delivery, and the location of urban warehouses in central areas are mainly due to e-commerce’s exponential growth in the last few years [3]. E-commerce has increased last-mile deliveries. Increasingly diverse types of households buy online instead of going to physical stores. The change in consumer behavior affects cities’ mobility, with a growing network of logistic providers overseeing deliveries to final customers [4]. One of the main logistic challenges of e-commerce is that deliveries are more fragmented; packages usually have small dimensions, consisting of a few products that can vary in size and shape, making shipping orders a complex process [5]. The quality of logistics distribution has become increasingly crucial for e-commerce, and qualities such as speed, flexibility, and value-added services are considered at the time of delivery [6].
A substantial increase in the distances traveled can be observed if inefficient last-mile delivery systems are used for the higher volumes of deliveries generated by e-commerce, especially in residential areas, generating higher costs, increased emissions, congestion, and decreased quality of life [7]. Since e-commerce keeps growing at a reduced rate compared with 2020–2022, it is necessary to develop more efficient and sustainable processes to meet the increasing demands and provide better service levels [8].
Notably, e-commerce operations directly impact companies’ decarbonization strategies and sustainability. Reducing CO2 emissions is one of the targets of city logistics measures [9,10]. Many projects, mainly in Europe, have focused on sustainable strategies for urban freight transport [11]. However, this topic is rarely explored in Latin American countries. For example, logistic operators in Brazil do not prioritize decarbonization strategies in freight transport policies [12]. This theme is important, and the Latin American context is fundamental to the 2030 agenda.
Based on the arguments above, this paper explores the challenges facing decarbonization in the e-commerce logistics sector in Latin America (Latam) based on a survey of e-commerce logistics companies. The main contribution of this paper is to provide a comparative analysis involving Latam countries where scarce scientific research is available. To our knowledge, this is the first scientific paper to present a comparative analysis among Latam countries.
The rest of this paper is organized as follows: Section 2 presents the economic, environmental, social, and technological challenges of the e-commerce logistics sector. Section 3 details the research approach. Then, the survey and discussion findings are presented in Section 4 and Section 5, respectively. Lastly, Section 6 contains the final remarks and suggestions for future research.

2. Literature Review on E-Commerce Challenges in Latin America

The rise of e-commerce has different consequences for cities. It is important to identify the aspects of e-commerce that challenge the urban systems and stakeholders involved [13]. This section is divided into four categories to analyze e-commerce challenges and cities’ decarbonization goals: economic, environmental, social, and technological implications. It is important to note that although these challenges are presented separately in this review, they are often highly interrelated. Additionally, information on the different challenges that e-commerce presents in cities is abundant. However, only some are related to Latam countries [13]. This section aims to provide a perspective on these challenges in Latam.

2.1. Economic Challenges

A key aspect of e-commerce is that online buying reduces costs compared with physical store operations [14]. However, there are two main economic challenges: the costs associated with urban product distribution systems and their potential optimization to make them more efficient [13]. In this context, e-commerce retailers and shipping companies realize they must take different measures to reduce shipping costs and meet customer expectations [15]. Therefore, in addition to lowering costs, several initiatives have been used to improve the efficiency of delivery operations, reduce traffic, and limit social and environmental impacts [15].
Last-mile delivery costs can have a very different impact on each company’s operations. Therefore, last-mile delivery requires elaborate planning and scheduling to minimize overall travel costs, specifically those related to home deliveries that result in a failed delivery, as many consumers are away from home at the time of delivery [16]. Companies must reduce failed deliveries, which require redelivery, additional costs, and more emissions [17,18,19]. Failed deliveries in the UK generate additional costs exceeding a billion US dollars annually [4].
The main factors considered in last-mile delivery costs include the probability of failed deliveries, the density of customers in delivery areas, and the degree of automation of the process [20]. E-consumers demand services with higher service levels, including same-day or urgent deliveries. If these services are not offered, it is challenging to maintain a competitive advantage in the market [21]. Therefore, delivery vehicles often deliver without fully using their capacity, affecting the operational efficiency of courier companies and, consequently, posing negative economic challenges since they are more expensive than standard deliveries [21].
Also, the lack of use of full-capacity freight harms the decarbonization of cities. For this reason, some studies suggest using cargo bicycles or other sustainable freight vehicles, taking advantage of excess capacity and optimizing transport costs, congestion, and noise emissions [22]. Replacing the most frequent means of transportation with more sustainable technologies brings several benefits for companies, such as lower maintenance and operating costs and accessibility in restricted traffic areas, such as historic centers and pedestrian areas [23]. The delivery culture that focuses on meeting customer service levels increases the competitive aspect of the sector, which can have independent actors operating with a low level of vehicle utilization and marginal profit [24].

2.2. Environmental Challenges

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, global retail e-commerce sales rose to nearly USD 5 trillion in 2019 (half for goods) and are expected to exceed 22% of all retail sales by 2023. The economic growth of e-commerce trends and the high demand for urban logistics services put significant pressure on the environment [25]. Greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector are expected to double by 2050, and the growing demand for parcel transport and cross-border parcel transport contributes to this scenario, with transport being one of the main contributors to greenhouse gas emissions [22].
E-commerce increases moving freight vehicles in urban areas [26] and decreases individual transport. It is more efficient for a few vehicles to make several delivery rounds (in the case of e-commerce) than for many vehicles to drive individually to and from stores (in the case of conventional commerce) [3]. E-commerce itself is less carbon-intensive than traditional commerce. However, current trends such as product returns and instant delivery could lead to inefficiencies in last-mile operations and, therefore, contribute to a general increase in the carbon footprint of consumption [3].
There are some factors related to e-commerce that can harm the environment. The growing demand for products through digital channels results in a complex last-mile distribution. Customers want to receive their orders as quickly as possible. Therefore, companies are forced to offer fast delivery times. According to some studies, approximately 25% of consumers are willing to pay an additional fee to receive their orders on the same day [27]. A study on green last-mile home delivery found that customers are willing to wait between 4 and 6 days depending on the incentives provided (4.2 days for no incentive, 5.5 days for a financial incentive, and 4.7 days for an environmental incentive) [28]. Logistics faces constant challenges in promoting and developing sustainable transport to reduce emissions, traffic noise, and traffic congestion.
E-commerce is challenged with fast and flexible delivery, which is essential to building a network of loyal customers. Fast deliveries can increase fuel consumption and lead to the inefficient use of vehicle capacity [14]. Some authors agree that reaching critical mass is one of the main problems associated with the last-mile distribution [11]. Shorter delivery times, although convenient for the customer, present logistical difficulties for companies in scheduling deliveries and managing their vehicle fleet [28]. In addition, one of the major problems of last-mile logistics is that customers are often absent when orders are received (failed deliveries); this problem involves costs, kilometers, and environmental emissions [17]. However, new distribution solutions and innovations are being implemented. One solution worth mentioning is the self-collection process in which the packages are left in a previously arranged location, and the client picks them up at a convenient time, which involves the client in the delivery process [4].
Generally, three types of action can be taken when a logistics company wants to limit its emissions. The first deals with reducing the environmental impact of each vehicle, the second involves using more ecological modes of transport, and the third aims to reduce the need for transport [29].

2.3. Social Challenges

The rise of e-commerce has changed consumer behavior. Another impact lies in the changes in people’s quality of life, infrastructure, and the risks associated with noise and accidents. The infrastructure, parking, loading, and traffic management initiatives of the public sector in the US have been thoroughly studied [30].
Another challenge of e-commerce is the health of the population. The congestion generated by freight vehicles is responsible for increasing air pollution, which deteriorates the health of residents [31]. High concentrations of pollutants are the leading cause of airway obstruction, which occurs much more frequently among city dwellers than in rural areas [32]. Furthermore, air pollution has negative effects on human health, causing stroke, ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and acute respiratory infection [8]. Due to its impact on population health, it is important to decarbonize the e-commerce logistics sector.
Lastly, it should be noted that people continue to fear buying online for several reasons, especially fraud, followed by mistrust in electronic media, ignorance, and lack of information, among others [33]. However, people had no choice but to turn to the online channel during the pandemic, which reduced this effect.
Other social challenges relate to jobs. Many new jobs, such as instant meal deliveries, have been created to serve e-commerce growth in cities, but many jobs are precarious [3].

2.4. Technological Challenges

E-commerce is closely related to technology since its success depends mainly on adequate technological implementation. At the same time, the development of the e-commerce market is based on integrating the information systems of market participants, which makes it possible to support supply chain processes and close cooperation between companies [34]. Through the Internet, retailers reach a more significant number of customers. At the same time, they can participate in the purchase or service process at any time and place, comparing different offers, which implies expanding more in the distribution chain and optimizing their resources [35].
E-commerce companies are adopting innovative technologies to reduce costs and time while meeting customer expectations regarding delivery service quality [36]. From an organizational point of view, introducing technological tools is generally associated with positive returns, be it long-term financial savings or eliminating human errors from the service [35]. Companies are imagining new ways of selling online, using a wide variety of digital technologies, including the Internet of Things (IoT); artificial intelligence (AI); blockchain; and autonomous delivery devices, such as drones or robots, among others, to facilitate e-commerce deliveries [37]. In turn, the scope of e-commerce is expanded by implementing new payment methods such as mobile money and digital wallets [36].
Several authors have revealed that autonomous vehicles, when replacing pickup trucks, have the potential to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions and, in many cases, are even more efficient than electric pickup trucks [38]. Other solutions, such as delivery lockers (DLs) or crowd logistics, involve technological applications that, through sophisticated sensors, collect data in real time and allow for the calculation of optimal transport networks for connecting people [13]. DLs present a sustainable advantage: They are economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable since they reduce travel distance and time, reduce vehicle accidents and therefore increase the habitability of the city, and finally reduce emissions and noise generated by operations [15,39]. At the same time, DLs manage to increase the number of successful deliveries in the first attempt, reduce carriers’ operating costs, and optimize delivery rounds [40].
However, public perception, that is, how people view new technology, generally strongly influences how quickly new technologies and solutions will be widely adopted, affecting the social benefits that can be gained from implementing such technologies [41]. Therefore, e-commerce logistics still faces challenges related to failed deliveries, time windows, the use of indicators, harmful gas emissions, congestion, freight vehicles used, and implemented innovative solutions. These challenges are addressed in our research approach, focusing on Latam.

3. Research Approach

This paper analyzes the challenges faced in the decarbonization strategies of e-commerce logistics in Latam. The challenges identified in the literature were the basis for establishing a questionnaire for data collection. The questionnaire consisted of 36 questions that were divided into three sections: (i) the characterization of the companies in terms of country, the number of employees, etc.; (ii) e-commerce characteristics of the companies, such as e-commerce sales, channels to sell online, billing, and payment methods; and (iii) the evaluation of challenges associated with the sustainability of operations, focusing on opportunities for the sector’s decarbonization. The questions were mainly multiple-choice questions, while some involved a five-point Likert scale. International experts validated the questionnaire through online meetings. The survey was conducted using SurveyMonkey® between April and August 2022.
The questionnaire was distributed via email and social networks to logistics companies in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Peru (Figure 1). These countries were chosen for their convenience in collecting data by the involved researchers. These four countries account for 45% of the Latam population, with 299.97 million inhabitants, 90% of whom live in urban areas [42].

4. Results

4.1. Companies’ Characterization

In total, 464 logistics companies in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Uruguay responded to the survey. There are no reliable data on the total number and types of logistics companies in these countries, so our relatively large sample cannot be considered representative. The presented results are, therefore, exploratory. The analysis was centered on the following departments, provinces, or states: Montevideo (Uruguay), Lima (Peru), Minas Gerais and São Paulo (Brazil), and Buenos Aires (Argentina). It is also worth mentioning that Minas Gerais and São Paulo are States of Brazil, which comprise different cities; however, this division is reasonable since Montevideo is a department of Uruguay, and Buenos Aires and Lima are provinces of Argentina and Peru, respectively. Therefore, departments, provinces, and states are coherent units of study in this paper.
Notably, 62% of the respondents have e-commerce services. Of the remaining 38%, their main reason for not providing e-commerce services is that they do not need an online channel and that their products are not ready to be sold online, among other reasons (Figure 1).
If we select only companies with e-commerce services, 58% of the responses are from Brazil, 21% from Uruguay, 11% from Argentina, and 10% from Peru (Figure 2).
Regarding the size of the respondents, most companies are large or medium-sized (Figure 3). (A micro-company has less than 10 employees, a small-sized company has between 10 and 50 employees, a medium-sized company has between 50 and 250 employees, and a large company has more than 250 employees.) Most large companies are from Brazil, while most micro-companies are from Uruguay and Argentina. The surveyed companies belong to different business areas, mainly food and beverages, clothing, and fashion.

4.2. Characterization of Respondent Companies

The economic challenge of e-commerce is a fundamental factor to consider. In 2021, most companies (52.9%) had a share of their online sales turnover lower than 25%. However, around 20% of the companies reported that the percentage of total turnover due to e-commerce orders was greater than 50% (Figure 4). A significant difference was observed in Buenos Aires, where most companies had a turnover due to e-commerce greater than 50%.
Another fact inferred from the analysis is the significant differences between the size of companies and the percentage of turnover due to online orders. Most companies with over 50% of annual turnover from online orders are micro-enterprises. On the other hand, most of the respondents with less than 10% online-based turnover are large companies. In addition, companies with a turnover of online orders greater than 50% tend to believe that their business can be developed online. Companies with less than 10% turnover from online orders believe that a physical store is necessary to further their business (Figure 5).
Overall, 42.2% of the companies surveyed mentioned that their logistics costs increased when implementing e-commerce. Of the companies whose logistics costs increased, the average value of this increase was 31%. As mentioned in the literature review, although e-commerce can reduce costs since it can reduce part of the costs associated with physical stores, costs can increase due to the complexity of last-mile delivery. Most companies in Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and Lima indicated that their logistics costs increased when implementing e-commerce, while most respondents in Minas Gerais and São Paulo did not report an increase in logistics costs (Figure 6).

4.3. Carbon Footprint

When analyzing the sustainable practices implemented by the respondents, it is striking to note that 46.1% of the companies do not formally address sustainability (Figure 7). Lima stands out in this regard, with only 35% not formally addressing sustainability issues.
Although there is a great focus on the decarbonization of cities and logistics worldwide, there are some opportunities for improvement in Latam since, according to most of the respondents (84%), there is still a need to measure the environmental impact of the means of transport used to deliver. Regarding their carbon footprint, most of the surveyed companies do not know whether they are carbon-neutral. Figure 8 shows that Lima respondents are more carbon-neutral, while São Paulo has more non-carbon-neutral companies. The initial carbon footprint calculation should be prioritized before implementing measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve logistics operations’ performance. However, as mentioned, most Latam companies are still not calculating their carbon footprint. Therefore, it is also imperative to make reliable calculations of CO2 emissions and propose appropriate measures since the future of CO2 emissions from transport is ambiguous due to policy uncertainty [43].

4.4. Delivery Service and Freight Vehicles

Most companies use outsourced transport to perform e-commerce deliveries, followed by a pickup in the store (click and collect) (48.7%) and own-account transport (35.3%) (Figure 9). Outsourced transport partially reduces the concern of companies’ excess or increased logistics costs since it is transferred to the outsourced partner through predefined transport agreements. The collection points are used only by 9.2% of companies, contrary to many other countries (especially in Europe).
Lima is where collection delivery points are more widely used (18.2%), while only 3.7% of companies in São Paulo use this delivery method (Figure 10). In recent years, pick-up points have rapidly emerged as an alternative method [44], especially in metropolitan areas [40] and in multiple European cities [45]. Logistics companies deliver parcels to the points where customers can collect or return them [44]. This solution requires customers’ participation in the delivery process [4]. Locating collection and delivery points near residential areas can significantly reduce the mileage of delivery vehicles, reducing emissions [46,47].
Although vehicles significantly contribute to congestion and CO2 emissions, they play a fundamental role in urban economies by delivering goods to commercial establishments, directly satisfying the population’s and customers’ consumption demands [15]. New solutions using alternative energy sources are needed to improve urban mobility and reduce the negative environmental impact [31]. An ongoing trend can be observed in several European countries that allow entry into cities exclusively to vehicles that meet certain environmental requirements, i.e., vehicles with the appropriate emission categories, vehicles powered by alternative fuels, and electric vehicles [47]. However, this is not a trend identified in Latam (Figure 11). Trucks are the main types of freight vehicles used for e-commerce deliveries (64%), followed by vans (57.2%) and motorcycles (32.6%). In densely populated areas, it is expected that more agile means of transport would be used, such as vans and motorcycles, since trucks are more difficult to maneuver within the city. If fully loaded, trucks represent an efficient means of consolidating shipments. More sustainable means of transport, such as electric vehicles (5.1%) and bicycles (5.5%), are still developing but could also be the future choice of some companies.
The study of different research works has shown the potential benefits of using electric vehicles (EVs), especially in the last-mile distribution, as it is considered a viable strategy to reduce dependence on oil and the environmental impacts of transport, such as local emissions [48]. In addition to the ecological benefits of using electric vehicles, a social advantage is the reduced noise [49]. Electric vehicles have drawbacks; the purchasing prices remain higher than internal combustion vehicles (ICVs) [50]. The public is used to ICVs, whereas electric vehicles require users to adapt to new driving patterns [50]. However, their total cost of ownership is improving, owing to lower energy prices and maintenance costs. EVs have batteries with lower energy density than the fuels used by ICVs. They need much longer waiting times to recharge the batteries than it takes to fill tanks, and charging stations are still scarce [50]. Concerning electric vehicles, Montevideo stands out, with 21.7% of the companies surveyed using electric vehicles, while in Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Lima, it is less than 1%.
Electric cargo bikes are especially suitable for distributing urban goods for last-mile deliveries associated with short distances or innovative logistics systems, such as micro-logistics hubs or mobile warehouses [22]. Among the surveyed companies, cargo bikes are mainly used in Lima and Montevideo (Figure 12). However, it is important to note that 64% of the surveyed companies belong to sectors that transport large packages in Minas Gerais. This result could explain why using bicycles is not common or applicable. As reported by Nascimento and Oliveira [51], environmental awareness, public policies, and weather conditions negatively influence the intention of logistics operators to use last-mile delivery bicycles in Brazil.

4.5. Measurement of Performance Indicators

Due to the significant effect on overall logistics costs and the economic sustainability of e-commerce, last-mile delivery processes need to be analyzed and studied for optimization purposes [20]. A practical tool to improve a company’s e-commerce operation is metrics. For companies to reduce the impact generated by their e-commerce operations on the environment, some fundamental indicators to measure would be the average number of shipments per day, the percentage of returns, the number of failed trips, the number of kilometers traveled, and the fuel consumed, among others. In our survey, it is striking that 43% of companies do not use any metrics (Figure 13). In particular, only 3.1% of the surveyed companies formally calculate fuel consumption, and only 6.6% calculate the kilometers traveled since this information is usually essential to calculate CO2 emissions [52].
São Paulo and Minas Gerais have the highest share of companies that do not use formal indicators (Figure 14).

4.6. Companies’ Challenges

The respondents rated the challenges when implementing e-commerce (Figure 15). The most relevant challenge for companies, in general, is meeting a suitable delivery time for the client, followed by technological and training challenges. Due to many returned orders, one of the greatest difficulties of e-commerce is the so-called reverse logistics. More than half of online shoppers in most countries have returned an order [38]. Reverse logistics implies increased impacts due to the need to make additional trips to return packages. For Latam companies, returns present a high challenge (scores of 4 and 5) for 51.3% of companies.
Another challenge is the growing demand for faster delivery times, including, for example, same-day deliveries, which increase the operational costs of courier companies and pose negative economic challenges because they are more expensive than standard deliveries [21]. Same-day deliveries also negatively impact the environment because shorter delivery windows can lead to more frequent and less efficient trips by delivery vehicles due to the urgency of the end customer. According to the respondents, meeting acceptable delivery times for customers is a challenge for 61.7% of the surveyed companies. Last-mile delivery is one of the main challenges of e-commerce due to problems such as traffic congestion, the lack of space for loading and unloading, and time restrictions, among others. In addition, a significant challenge for companies is increasing the efficiency of the last-mile delivery process and reducing its harmful effects on the environment. According to the survey results, last-mile delivery represents a challenge for 58.6% of the companies surveyed. Finally, according to the reviewed literature, the implementation of technological tools for the development of a competitive e-commerce system is also considered a challenge. Technologies contribute to decarbonization by using collection lockers, logistics micro-hubs, and crowd logistics. These technologies present a challenge for 57.5% of the respondents.

4.7. Delivery Planning and Customer Experience

The respondents were asked to rate the importance of environmental impact, optimizing vehicle capacity, minimizing delivery time, and company costs when planning a delivery (Figure 16). The companies indicated that minimizing delivery time and total costs was most important. As already mentioned, some of these characteristics are interrelated. For example, maximizing vehicle capacity can minimize environmental impacts and reduce costs. However, they can also present a trade-off. Understanding and analyzing ways to reduce them simultaneously is important and relates to more effective and efficient strategies.
The respondents were also asked to select customers’ three most important services (Figure 17). In this case, fast delivery was the most cited. Therefore, the company’s objectives (minimizing delivery time) align with customers’ preferences (fast delivery). On the other hand, as mentioned in the literature, people may be willing to wait longer periods for delivery depending on the incentives provided. Specifically, if an environmental incentive is proposed, people may wait longer than they normally would [28]. It is important to mention that implementing cleaner technologies was the least selected option. Companies do not perceive their customers as being very environmentally conscious.
As mentioned above, some problems companies report are related to last-mile delivery. One of the main reasons for this may be failed deliveries (when the customer is away from home at the time of delivery). According to the survey, 70% of the companies have less than 10% of failed deliveries. However, they still need to manage these deliveries accordingly. When the customer is not at home, 66% of the companies organize a new delivery with the customer. In comparison, only 10% of the companies require the customer to pick up the package at the store or other specific location. Making an additional trip to the customer’s home implies more trips and kilometers, negatively impacting companies’ economic and environmental aspects.

5. Discussion

In addition to the theoretical implications already discussed in the previous sections, it is important to understand the practical implications of some of the results we found in our survey of 464 logistics companies in four Latam countries for companies, city authorities, and public policy design.
Economic, social, technological, and environmental aspects are intrinsically intertwined in the case of last-mile logistics. Companies can support competitiveness in the logistics market by investing in technological developments, introducing sustainable practices, and implementing technology to measure and monitor new operations. Governments and companies can identify where to make greater efforts and improvements and quantify the impact of new strategies and business developments.
City authorities, by improving cities’ roads and infrastructure and implementing proper regulations, can contribute to optimizing last-mile delivery, allowing logistics companies to provide more sustainable deliveries and increase people’s satisfaction and well-being.
More collaboration between stakeholders (government, private companies, society, and academia) is probably needed for Latin American countries to achieve greener logistics operations. The implemented improvements must benefit all involved actors, and the sector’s sustainable development must be prioritized as the first objective, focusing on decarbonization strategies of this sector and improving the overall efficiency of the logistics processes.

6. Final Remarks

This paper investigates the challenges facing decarbonization in the e-commerce logistics sector in Latin America. Most companies that participated in this study were large and medium-sized companies from Brazil and Uruguay, belonging to the food, beverage, and fashion sectors. Some of our respondents do not have e-commerce because either the company believes it is unnecessary to have this type of channel or the product is thought of as not ready to be sold online. Regarding online orders, the data varied considerably in the global analysis, with Buenos Aires standing out because of a high number of companies with sales from e-commerce greater than 50%. The higher the turnover of online orders, the lower the tendency to need a physical store.
Most companies work with third-party transport companies. Additionally, only 9% use innovative methods to deliver goods, such as collection points outside of the store. To decarbonize e-commerce operations, Latam companies must take new initiatives based on successful strategies in other parts of the world. Deliveries in Latam are still made overwhelmingly in ICV trucks and vans. The participating companies from Montevideo have the highest proportion of use of environmentally friendly means of transportation, such as electric vehicles. Very few use bicycles or cargo bikes for deliveries. Compared with the current global trend of using more ecological means of transport, Latin American companies still have a long way to go.
A striking result is that 43% of our surveyed companies do not use metrics or indicators. Companies in the region must build a baseline that allows them to set performance indicators, improvement measures, and goals for their logistics services. Metrics such as the number of kilometers traveled and fuel consumption are essential to calculating companies’ carbon footprint. Latam companies, as represented by our respondents (mostly in the food, beverage, and fashion sectors, which means they are not fully representative), calculate these indicators irregularly.
The main challenge for companies when applying e-commerce is prompt delivery to the customers. Companies, therefore, consider minimizing the delivery time to final customers of utmost significance since, in addition to being a significant challenge, this is the characteristic that companies believe is most relevant to consumers. However, the requirement of rapid delivery can result in vehicles not using their full capacity.
Our survey findings can generate many insights for a sector (e-commerce) in which there is not much specific information for the Latam region thus far. However, this work remains an exploratory analysis. As such, this analysis shows that Latam companies have a long way to go to achieve decarbonization in their e-commerce operations. This does not mean some have not considered such strategies in their core business. However, 46% have not yet been fully involved in sustainable practices, 84% do not measure the environmental impact generated by the transport they use, and 88.4% do not identify themselves as carbon-neutral or do not know if they are. Due to the growing relevance of strategies to reduce global and local emissions, Latin American companies must focus on sustainable practices for last-mile deliveries.
The limitation of this article is related to the difficulty in obtaining a more significant sample from the Latin American countries surveyed. In this research, we considered only four countries. The sample, although relatively large for a survey of this type, must be expanded for further work, and the questionnaire should focus on statistical techniques for a more robust analysis. Our results pave the path for new studies based on a descriptive analysis of original data.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, D.J., A.L. and I.C.; methodology, D.J.; validation, D.J., A.L., I.C., M.C., L.K.D.O., L.D., M.T. and P.R.D.S.; formal analysis, A.L. and I.C.; investigation, A.L. and I.C.; resources, D.J.; data curation, A.L. and I.C.; writing—original draft preparation, D.J., A.L. and I.C.; writing—review and editing, D.J., A.L., I.C., M.C., L.K.D.O., L.D., M.T. and P.R.D.S.; supervision, D.J.; project administration, D.J.; funding acquisition, D.J. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


The authors would like to extend their sincere thanks to the numerous organizations and individuals that generously supported this study by completing and disseminating the survey and to ANII Uruguay (Agencia Nacional de Investigación e Innovación) for partial funding and supporting this project. Project: FPL_X_2020_1_164713.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study.

Data Availability Statement

The data presented in this study are available on request from the corresponding author.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Figure 1. Reasons for not selling online (n = 146).
Figure 1. Reasons for not selling online (n = 146).
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Figure 2. Share of respondents with e-commerce services (n = 247).
Figure 2. Share of respondents with e-commerce services (n = 247).
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Figure 3. Respondents’ size (n = 247).
Figure 3. Respondents’ size (n = 247).
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Figure 4. Share of e-commerce-related turnover (n = 244).
Figure 4. Share of e-commerce-related turnover (n = 244).
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Figure 5. The need for a physical store or not, according to companies’ online turnover (less than 10% (n = 78) and more than 50% (n = 48)).
Figure 5. The need for a physical store or not, according to companies’ online turnover (less than 10% (n = 78) and more than 50% (n = 48)).
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Figure 6. Percentage of respondents experimenting with increased logistics costs due to e-commerce (n = 169).
Figure 6. Percentage of respondents experimenting with increased logistics costs due to e-commerce (n = 169).
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Figure 7. Sustainable practices (n = 154).
Figure 7. Sustainable practices (n = 154).
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Figure 8. Carbon neutrality (n = 114).
Figure 8. Carbon neutrality (n = 114).
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Figure 9. Last-mile delivery strategies (n = 238).
Figure 9. Last-mile delivery strategies (n = 238).
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Figure 10. Use of pick-up points (n = 201).
Figure 10. Use of pick-up points (n = 201).
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Figure 11. Types of freight vehicles used by companies (n = 236).
Figure 11. Types of freight vehicles used by companies (n = 236).
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Figure 12. Use of cargo bicycles for last-mile deliveries (n = 199).
Figure 12. Use of cargo bicycles for last-mile deliveries (n = 199).
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Figure 13. Indicators and metrics used by companies (n = 227).
Figure 13. Indicators and metrics used by companies (n = 227).
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Figure 14. Percentage of companies that do not use indicators (n = 199).
Figure 14. Percentage of companies that do not use indicators (n = 199).
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Figure 15. Evaluation of e-commerce challenges (n = 159).
Figure 15. Evaluation of e-commerce challenges (n = 159).
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Figure 16. Identification of the importance of delivery planning strategies.
Figure 16. Identification of the importance of delivery planning strategies.
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Figure 17. Perception about what customers value most (n = 109).
Figure 17. Perception about what customers value most (n = 109).
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MDPI and ACS Style

Jurburg, D.; López, A.; Carli, I.; Chong, M.; De Oliveira, L.K.; Dablanc, L.; Tanco, M.; De Sousa, P.R. Understanding the Challenges Facing Decarbonization in the E-Commerce Logistics Sector in Latin America. Sustainability 2023, 15, 15718.

AMA Style

Jurburg D, López A, Carli I, Chong M, De Oliveira LK, Dablanc L, Tanco M, De Sousa PR. Understanding the Challenges Facing Decarbonization in the E-Commerce Logistics Sector in Latin America. Sustainability. 2023; 15(22):15718.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Jurburg, Daniel, Agustina López, Isabella Carli, Mario Chong, Leise Kelli De Oliveira, Laetitia Dablanc, Martín Tanco, and Paulo Renato De Sousa. 2023. "Understanding the Challenges Facing Decarbonization in the E-Commerce Logistics Sector in Latin America" Sustainability 15, no. 22: 15718.

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