Glovo: Embedding Sustainability into Q-Commerce

Sébastien Pellion, Head of Social Impact & Sustainability at Glovo explores how the q-commerce company prioritises sustainability and its users

Founded in Spain in 2014, delivery company Glovo provides its users access to any produce in their city within minutes. 

Sounds incredible – but how is it achieved sustainably? 

We sat down with Sébastien Pellion, Glovo’s Head of Social Impact & Sustainability to explore sustainability in q-commerce and delivery

Meet Sébastien Pellion, Head of Social Impact & Sustainability at Glovo

My entire career has been dedicated to impact and sustainability. 

Prior to joining Glovo, I was a sustainability executive at the French company Suez, an active participant in the UN Climate Change conferences (2015-2018), and founded my own start-up focused on digitalising waste collection in Sub-Saharan cities. 

I feel extremely lucky to have chosen this path 10 years ago and am convinced that businesses have the power to catalyse systemic change in a way that is replicable and scalable. I believe this is the only way to achieve long-term sustainability for our society and our planet. 

As Global Head of Impact & Sustainability at Glovo, it is my responsibility to define a strong roadmap with ambitious long-term goals and implement a strategy that aligns with the business and ensures that we generate meaningful impact. To make this happen, my team and I work transversally with all departments within Glovo as well as with external stakeholders, such as NGOs and public administrations.

We need all our teams at every level to come together to make a positive impact, so my team and I are working on powerful storytelling that will motivate our colleagues to contribute to Social Impact and Sustainability Projects, as well as demonstrating the economic return of these projects.

Can you outline what sustainable practices in the delivery and q-commerce industries can look like?

At Glovo, we are always striving to create a positive impact for our ecosystem by taking decisive concrete actions. Last year, we set ambitious goals to reduce our carbon emissions across our entire value chain by 42% in 2030. 

We are the only company in the industry to have our targets validated by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) and these are consistent with the reductions required to keep global warming to 1.5°C. 

We also want to go beyond carbon reduction to create holistic strategies that consider all aspects of the business and ensure that we’re holding ourselves accountable. To generate real impact, businesses need a more integrated approach to embed sustainability strategies into the business. Our main example is our Impact Fund, a firsts-of-its-kind initiative where we dedicate a small amount of our revenue margin per order to financing impact and sustainability projects.

As urban landscapes change, businesses have a responsibility to take action and drive change. To do so, positive change needs to start locally, and it’s important that companies are having a local impact in cities and communities rather than simply offsetting emissions in other countries far from where they operate. 

We believe that doing both is possible. Recently, we got involved with Fundación Tierra Pura, with whom we aim to reforest more than 200 hectares in the Galicia region of Spain. Not only will this help remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but it will also enhance biodiversity, protect natural habitats and foster socio-economic development within the local community.

We want to take part in shaping sustainable communities and cities, and generating impact locally allows us to address the specific needs and challenges of our communities. We work closely with local NGOs to tailor our efforts to make a positive difference in each city that Glovo operates. 

What are the issues with, and what improvements can be made, in sustainable methods across supply-chain, packing and distribution for businesses in the delivery industry?

In this era of environmental consciousness, businesses across the industry play a pivotal role in steering the course toward sustainability and there are several important improvements to be made, especially when it comes to the ways of doing delivery, the use of packaging and food waste.

Electrifying fleets has emerged as one of our crucial steps towards reducing carbon emissions in cities, as it’s our main in our carbon footprint. In Spain, our multi-fulfilment centre fleets are already electric and we are also running pilot programmes and partnerships with electric vehicle providers in Spain, Italy, Poland, Croatia, Romania and Kenya. Following a successful pilot in Croatia, the country is now delivering more than 35% of the orders with electrical vehicles, being the front-runner of all Glovo countries.

Glovo's logo

The second key challenge in the delivery industry is to address single-use plastics through eco-friendly alternatives to the use of packaging. Delivery platforms must be proactive in incentivising sustainable packaging among partners. For instance, at Glovo, we’ve been offering access to sustainable packaging via the Glovo Store, with multiple options designed to fit any kind of meal. Not only do we offer sustainable options at competitive prices versus plastic options but businesses can customise their orders to fit their supply needs. For example, local restaurants are able to purchase small orders. Currently, our internal research indicates that nearly 32% of the partners we collaborate with use sustainable packaging.

In addition, food waste represents huge CO₂ emissions. Together in alliance with Spain’s Fundación Altius, we ensure that surplus food from different players, including supermarkets, NGOs and food banks, are delivered directly to the homes of vulnerable people through the Glovo Access platform. We are also running similar projects in other countries and we’ve saved more than 2,000 tonnes of food surplus since 2020.

Lastly, much of the focus in the industry is on reducing the CO₂ emissions for every order as courier travel and delivery packaging are the two main sources of carbon emissions. One way to tackle this is to invest heavily in logistics efficiencies, including equipping couriers with the mentioned electric or zero-emission vehicles and reducing the distance travelled by couriers. 

Glovo is headquartered in Barcelona, Spain

In the long term, we have set four ambitious operational targets that will enable us to decouple business growth from greenhouse gas emissions. By 2030, we aim to have low-carbon vehicles make up 67% of our delivery fleet, reduce the distance travelled by couriers by 21% through efficiency measures such as route optimisation, ensure that 92% of orders are delivered using green packaging and deliver 10% of orders from food surplus, addressing food waste issues across our value chain.

By successfully achieving these four targets, we hope to plateau carbon emissions at less than 500,000 tonnes of CO₂ per year by 2030, which is much less than the 800,000 tonnes of CO₂ emissions generated if we were to take no action.

Further, when it comes to the supply chain, businesses can be more sustainable by ensuring that all packaging and other items purchased are being shipped by freight and always sent at the maximum capacity. Every step counts towards a more sustainable future, which is why we have also switched to biodegradable bags in our micro-fulfillment centres as these are even more eco-friendly than paper ones.

How can companies in these industries actively embed best eco-friendly practices into their culture and values?

Impact and Sustainability projects help enable companies to overcome social and environmental challenges by having a positive impact on people and the planet. 

To generate real impact, businesses need to have an integrated approach and embed sustainability strategies into the business. Not only does this allow for collaboration with other innovative companies, startups and NGOs, but it also leads to better business practices in terms of cost savings, efficiency in operations and long-term resilience while also appealing to climate-conscious consumers.

Companies must set up initiatives that are aimed at supporting cities and local communities to become more sustainable, inclusive and resilient. With the launch of Impact Fund, we are boosting impact and sustainability projects including supporting local communities, climate action initiatives, the digitalisation of small businesses, helping close the gender gap in technology and upskilling programmes for our couriers.

The Impact Fund is a way to make sure that the more our business grows, the more positive impact we can generate.

To ensure that companies are making good on their sustainability goals, they also need to be measuring the impact of their footprint in each country that they operate in.

Glovo is active in 26 countries

In 2021, we built a Profit and Loss dashboard that enables each market to track its progress and measure its sustainability impact. This helps us to be transparent in our progress and to engage with local leaders, fostering their involvement in our impact initiatives to generate a change in the cities they oversee. 

Measurement tools and systems like this mean that businesses can make better decisions to amplify or mitigate their impact, implement actionable targets, and stay on track to reach their long-term sustainability goals.

How can businesses work together to ensure environmental practices are put into place to ensure there is an immediate impact on the current climate?

When it comes to tackling the pressing social and climate challenges that we face, we all have to not just talk the talk, but also walk the walk. Empty announcements are not good enough and companies need to live up to their promises. At Glovo, we hope to lead by example and have proven our commitment to action through multiple initiatives, including The Couriers Pledge, Glovo Local and Glovo Access, among others, all of them funded by our Impact Fund.

Additionally, it’s essential that companies are transparent about their efforts and base all their actions on facts and results. Setting SBTi targets helps businesses standardise their environmental strategies and leaders should also work together to share best practices with others in the industry.

Individuals and organisations need to collaborate so we leave a better world for generations to come. When it comes to collective change, I believe it is key for everyone to start acknowledging the huge economic potential of social impact and sustainability. The ecological transition will generate millions of jobs, reduce billions of costs and generate even more revenues. 

Collaboration across the industry is key to creating a bigger impact through utilising different perspectives and tools to enhance sustainability and impact projects. By working together, we can demonstrate the power and progress that can be achieved when businesses meaningfully join forces to share ideas and solutions in order to enable real impact. 

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