Zero-carbon takeaway? Spanish delivery start-up Glovo targets greener future

Uber Eats and Glovo delivery couriers with bicycles cross a street amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in central Kiev, Ukraine May 13, 2020. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

On-demand delivery service Glovo, whose riders with distinctive yellow bags have continued to carry meals, medicine, and other goods to city residents under lockdown, will offset all its carbon emissions by the end of 2021.

The Barcelona-based company runs an app that lets its users in 22 countries buy, collect or send any product in the same city within an hour, with takeaway food accounting for about 70% of deliveries.

In five years, the firm has expanded operations to about 300 cities, mainly in southern and eastern Europe, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa. It employs more than 51,000 freelance couriers, who mainly use bicycles or motorbikes for deliveries.

Glovo said it would buy an initial 30,000 carbon credits – each representing one tonne of planet-warming carbon dioxide – from a forest conservation project in Peru, via California-based platform Pachama, which also works with Microsoft Corp.

“Today, we can’t just go from A to Z. We’ve decided to begin compensating the negative part as much as we can,” Glovo co-founder Sacha Michaud told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Michaud said the firm’s delivery riders, known as “glovers,” choose which mode of transport they use, with the global split roughly 50:50 between bikes and motorcycles and a very small percentage using cars.

Michaud said that emissions from deliveries account for about a quarter of the company’s carbon footprint, which will offset going back to the start of this year. 

Other sources of emissions in the company’s direct value chain are offices, corporate travel, data centers, and food waste and packaging, which it will compensate fully by the end of next year.

Glovo also aims to reduce emissions with initiatives like better managing food waste, bundling orders, providing partners with sustainable packaging, and supplying couriers with backpacks made from recycled and recyclable materials.

Michaud said the start-up, which aims to become profitable by mid-2021, could also seek to negotiate discounts on electric bikes and other vehicles for its riders.

Ride-hailing company Lyft Inc.said last week, every vehicle on its ride-hailing and rental car platform would be electric by 2030. Still, it would not provide direct financial support to drivers for switching from gasoline-powered cars.

Meanwhile, Rival Uber has not made a blanket commitment to electrification but is partially subsidizing drivers’ electric-vehicle purchases in London.  

Michaud said Glovo is also sharing data with city authorities to help them plan where to expand cycling routes. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been making pro-bono deliveries to vulnerable residents, sometimes in partnerships with companies that fund the work.

“Coronavirus has raised social awareness of how important it is to help your neighbor,” Michaud said, adding that companies need to address both their environmental and social impacts to be competitive in a post-pandemic world.

According to Spanish media reports, the government is working on a new law to boost labor rights for freelance delivery ‘riders’ working for large platforms such as Glovo and competitor Deliveroo.


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