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  • By: Daryl Teo
  • Feb 14, 2022

Leveraging ECommerce Data for an Inclusive and Sustainable Future

As a result of accelerated digital transformation and an unprecedented spike in on-demand eCommerce purchases in the last two years, regional supply chains have been under immense pressure to keep up, leading to increased commercial freights, traffic congestion and an exacerbated use of plastic packaging.


While digital commerce continues to grow in strides, it is clear that we must leverage available data in key areas to transform the industry and its operations – and also that of the logistics industry – if we want long-term and sustainable success.


Driving toward Sustainability with Supply Chain & Logistics Data

One of these key areas is in the adoption of electric vehicles as part of the commercial logistics transport fleet. Not only would this reduce the carbon footprint but also further contribute to a data-driven ecosystem. Widespread adoption of EVs would form a foundation for smart routing to occur. This allows for better insights on live traffic conditions, more user-friendly interfaces for drivers and guidance for public institutions to stagger and more evenly distribute traffic patterns across Southeast Asia’s most populous cities to reduce traffic congestions. All these factors can help save time, increase productivity and, more importantly, promote sustainability.


We could also look at existing transportation methods and consider how they can be transformed as part of a sustainable logistics network. For example, in the Philippines, jeepney drivers have been among those badly affected by the sharp fall in tourist foot traffic as a result of ongoing travel restrictions. As such, opportunities in last-mile delivery for eCommerce companies offer these drivers and their vehicles a chance to reinvigorate their livelihoods. With proper implementation of digital tools and data, these drivers would be able to also finance the gradual shift to electricity-powered jeepneys, fulfilling both environmental and social responsibilities.

An electricity-powered jeepney helps fulfil last-mile logistics in the Philippines.


Another area would be to leverage an intermodal supply chain concept that will enable technology companies to have better end-to-end visibility of their logistics processes, from manufacturing right up to the delivery of their products to end-users, all while maintaining the best allocation of air, sea and land transportation. This offers an added incentive to choose the most appropriate option based on careful consideration of the trade-offs across time, affordability and resourcing dimensions. Companies would also be able to capitalize on unexpected opportunities with greater agility. For example, during pandemic-induced decreases in pricing for air freight, passenger planes could redirect excess load capacity into logistics carrier use.


Increased volumes and timely data would also reduce the energy spending of firms handling perishable food items and help achieve cheaper prices, the benefits of which would all subsequently pass down to  end-consumers. Autonomous food wastage control warehouses, powered by distributed ledger and machine learning-based approaches, would also further this sustainability push by fusing environmental, social and corporate governance theories with corporate sustainability targets. This provides early quick wins for employees, decision-making managers and corporate C-level executives to kick-start their long-term push toward sustainability goals.


Ensuring ECommerce as a Force for Good

Data can be used to optimize the efficiency of the entire supply chain and improve the ecosystem on all-new levels. Companies must keep upping the ante for the wider applications of cutting-edge technologies that can be used for data visibility and, just as importantly, responsible data governance frameworks.


With proper data governance, we can safeguard the interests of the general population and protect vulnerable segments. Not only do firms have to ensure that costs savings commensurate with their social obligations, they also have to make sure that these savings are not exploited as avenues to pursue higher profits and increase only shareholders’ benefits.


Given its growing prominence in Southeast Asia, eCommerce has the potential and ability to be a force for good. By leveraging existing knowledge and validating them with short-term feasibility studies, we will be able to provide relevant and scalable frameworks, which would help govern and further broaden the horizons of existing eCommerce players and their significant stakeholders toward an inclusive and sustainable future.

Daryl Teo leads strategy, sustainability and public policy at Lazada.

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