This article is sponsored by Sendle.
When James Chin Moody was getting his delivery start-up Sendle off the ground, having a green business model was nonnegotiable. Chin Moody is an environmentalist, former co-chair of the United Nations Environment Program youth advisory council and co-author of "The Sixth Wave: How to Succeed in a Resource-Limited World," and he found a radical sustainability solution when Sendle first entered the high-polluting shipping and logistics industry, in Australia in 2014.
His solution was to reduce the environmental impact of shipping by tapping existing courier providers and filling their vehicles with packages to ensure every trip is maximized, and purchasing carbon offsets to address the emissions of every package sent. To date, Sendle has offset 9 billion miles worth of carbon, or the equivalent of driving a one-ton truck from Earth to Mars and back 74 times.
Sendle proudly carries the title as the first 100 percent carbon-neutral delivery service specifically designed for small businesses in Australia and the United States. I spoke to Chin Moody about his desire to inspire the global shipping industry to radically slash its carbon emissions, and Sendle’s recent entry into the United States.
Tom Schroder:How did a former satellite engineer and environmentalist from Australia end up in the global shipping industry?
James Chin Moody: It all got started when I was trying to solve a problem. I was on paternity leave looking after my sons, and the used baby books, clothes, toys and furniture kept piling up. I started to think that there must be a better way to find this reusable stuff a new home.
The problem was how to deliver it to the new owners without it costing the earth. The answer was our original start-up TuShare: a community platform for reusable goods with a door-to-door delivery company to power it. And it cost a lot less than the post office or the major courier companies.
TuShare became hugely popular. We started delivering all sorts of items, including for small businesses who were being stung by big shipping costs, and found us a cheaper option. Sendle grew out of TuShare.
It has been a journey of phenomenal growth in Australia. Then, in November, we launched Sendle in the U.S. because our research showed that American small business owners and side hustlers also wanted a simple, reliable and affordable shipping solution, and a green option too.
Schroder: It’s unusual for a CEO of a shipping company to be 100 percent committed to sustainability. Where does your deep concern for the environment come from?
Chin Moody: I started my career in aerospace and when you look to the stars, you start to appreciate that we’re all on this one spaceship, Earth, and it’s a closed ecosystem.
Twenty years ago, I became involved in the environment movement and was the co-chair of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) youth council as a wide-eyed young upstart. I’m still a climate activist at heart because I believe in taking responsibility for my own impact.
For me, it all comes down to intergenerational equality. What we do now has a lasting impact on the environment and future generations, including my own kids.
Last year, Sendle joined the global climate strikes organized by Greta Thunberg because we all know that we’re borrowing resources from future generations and it can’t continue unabated like this.
We’re also a B Corp — a business that’s a force for good — so taking all stakeholders including the environment into account when making decisions is built into our operating model and our constitution.
Sendle supports small business shippers across the United States and Australia. Source: Sendle.
Schroder: How does Sendle manage to be carbon neutral in a high-polluting industry that’s set to represent some 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050?
Chin Moody: From day one, we built Sendle with a very strong philosophy of taking responsibility for everything we do, from fixing problems for our small business customers when something goes wrong with their delivery, to reducing our carbon emissions.
That philosophy of taking responsibility extends very much into our ethos around being a sustainable shipper. Our mission is "Shipping that’s good for the world."
So we offset the emissions from every single package delivered via our network through a carbon credit compensation strategy with South Pole, a global climate solutions provider, and supporting environmental projects. Each year, we ask our customers to vote for the carbon offset projects they want Sendle to support.
We’re currently supporting the Lower Mississippi Valley reforestation project in the U.S. and the Boobera Native Forest regeneration in Australia. People voted overwhelmingly for that one after the devastating bushfires earlier this year.
As a company, we openly admit that carbon emissions from shipping are contributing to climate change. That’s why we’ve been 100 percent carbon neutral since day one and continue to pressure others in the industry to do so. We are also working with our delivery partners to reduce the carbon intensity of their operations — a win-win for everyone as it saves them money as well.
With the explosion of e-commerce shipping during COVID, it’s more critical than ever to take responsibility for your carbon emissions, and if you design a carbon neutral business from the start, it’s much easier to do. It just becomes the way you operate.
Schroder: What would you like to see the shipping and logistics industry do to lower its carbon footprint, and how can those companies learn from Sendle?
Chin Moody:First up, everyone needs to acknowledge that our industry is responsible for two major environmental crises: the increasing carbon emissions from package delivery and the mounting waste from the packaging. I truly believe that acknowledgment can lead to lasting change.
For example, we recently announced the next step in our sustainable shipping journey: solar-powered electric vehicles. We’ve joined with one of our Australian courier partners to deliver Sendle packages in Australia’s first off-grid fleet of solar vans.
Bonds Couriers has this huge warehouse in Sydney and the roof is blasted by the sun. So, they installed 320 solar panels and bought a fleet of electric vehicles that are fueled onsite by the energy from the roof. It’s a real example of the circular economy in action.
Sendle has partnered with an Australian courier service to deliver packages in a fleet of the country's first solar vans. Source: Sendle.
In the United States, we recently launched an integration with Etsy to streamline the shipping process for merchants. We love how both companies are closely aligned on prioritizing the planet.
And we’ve been pioneering compostable mailers to help tackle the plastic waste crisis. They look and feel like plastic but are made from 100 percent biodegradable and compostable materials, including corn starch. They can go in with food scraps in the home compost or worm farm and biodegrade within 90 days.
Sendle's compostable packaging, introduced earlier this year, is 100 percent biodegradable. Source: Sendle.
Finally, we are trying to make it easier for our small business customers to share the fact that they are delivering 100 percent carbon neutral. This not only helps them sell more, but helps the whole industry to make a transition. If small businesses can save money on their shipping costs and have a positive impact on the environment, why can’t the whole industry do the same?