UCL Global


Exploring sustainable delivery solutions in London and Sydney

Professor Bani Anvari (UCL Faculty of Engineering Sciences) used the University of Sydney – UCL Partnership Collaboration Award (USyd-UCL PCA) to research sustainable logistics.

Parcel delivery service man from the company DHL at a professional cargo bike in the center of Copenhagen

11 June 2024

In our fast-paced world, consumers demand quick delivery of products. Yet with the pressing challenges of climate change, it can be difficult for the logistics industry to find solutions that meet both customer needs and sustainability targets. Last mile delivery, which is the final leg of a product's journey from distribution centres to the consumer, is described as being the most problematic aspect. As a product leaves its origin, it moves through a supply chain, often involving distribution centres. The last mile of the process is the most expensive and time consuming, and can have the biggest impact on the environment when using traditional, non-eco-friendly vehicles.

In response to this, Professor Bani Anvari wanted to collaborate with international researchers to gain a broader understanding of sustainable logistics in different urban contexts. Gaining a greater understanding of the issues, solutions and barriers to sustainable logistics can ultimately help cities across the world to tackle this problem. After successfully receiving the USyd-UCL PCA , she collaborated with researchers at the University of Sydney.

Sustainable logistics: solutions and barriers

“The needs and demands of customers have changed, and they want their products to be delivered to them a lot quicker than before,” Bani explained. “At the same time, we face all of these challenges around climate change. Therefore, we want to promote more sustainable modes of delivery, such as cargo bikes, electric bikes and electric scooters, so that we can satisfy demand in a way that is aligned with tackling climate challenges.”

The grant facilitated a series of collaborative workshops in Sydney and London, bringing together industrial partners, delivery companies, academics, government decision-makers, and other stakeholders. These workshops uncovered significant challenges, notably the lack of infrastructure and consistent regulations across cities to support sustainable transport methods. Additionally, issues such as fair employment practices in last-mile delivery services were highlighted as areas needing improvement.

“One of the challenges is in terms of infrastructure,” Bani noted. “For example, bike lane networks are jointly used by scooters, e-cargo bikes and more. The integration of bike lanes with traffic signals also needs to be better. Regulations in cities are all different too. In Sydney, e-scooters are not allowed at all. And cities will need a better network of micro-hub locations where parcels can be collected by riders for nearby deliveries.”

International collaborations and future steps

This international collaboration has not only deepened the understanding of sustainable logistics but also fostered significant partnerships, as evidenced by the engaging and productive workshops. The insights gained from these collaborations have informed academic papers and are shaping future recommendations for sustainable delivery practices.

With further funding secured, Bani has expanded the project's reach to include Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC) in Brazil, allowing the team to explore sustainable logistics in yet another context.

As a result of their work so far, the team has written and presented a conference paper for the Universities’ Transport Study Group. The collaborators have also written a paper for submission to an academic journal. Bani continues to hold bi-monthly meetings with her collaborators in Sydney to discuss ongoing research and future initiatives. This work has expanded her internal network at UCL too, as she has learned more about the research interests of other academics at the university, opening up collaboration opportunities.

“Academically, this funding has expanded my network of people who I can work with in other countries,” Bani said. “The visits to different labs have allowed me to get to know about this topic in much greater depth than would have been possible otherwise. It’s opened up collaboration opportunities for some of my colleagues too, and it enabled me to get a second travel grant to Brazil. This is small but important funding. The papers that will come out of this work will make a stronger case for me to get bigger funding in the future to continue this work.”

This transformative project illustrates the power of international collaboration in solving global challenges and sets a precedent for future research in sustainable urban logistics.


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