Working together towards green urban distribution

Green urban distribution systems are seen by many entrepreneurs and government agencies as a promising solution for a range of problems. This is the abstract picture that emerges from this new exploration of the opportunities and obstacles in the field of urban distribution.

Green urban distribution holds promise if it can be embedded in existing or relatively logical distribution lines. In market terms the creation of entirely new lines, possibly combined with roll-out of new infrastructure or entirely novel distribution concepts, is less promising. The reasons for this are varied in nature, but can be summed up in three terms: policy issues, communication and infrastructure.

The obstacles identified immediately beg the question: What can be done? The first thing that needs to be done is to elaborate dedicated policies addressing a number of key issues, which means combining the know-how and resources available in various tiers and agencies of government, at the same time forging alliances with the key partners in the field, i.e. producers, retailers, distributors and so on.

The conclusions in brief:  

  • Although harder to implement, novel concepts are more promising.
  • Entrepreneurs and government differ in their expectations.
  • In many municipalities no policy framework exists.
  • Where there is a policy framework (in Utrecht and, recently, Amsterdam) the initiatives dovetail better with policy and vice versa.
  • Transparency and clarity on subsidies is desirable.
  • Enforcement of environmental zones and so on is essential.
  • Cooperation among all parties is also essential.

The recommendations for entrepreneurs in brief:

  • Start by doing what you’re good at.
  • Examine whether your concept really offers ‘added value’ for society as a whole.
  • Select the municipality where your concept can be dovetailed in and will be supported.
  • Seek collaboration with other entrepreneurs, and involve retailers and street managers.
  • Communicate your plans transparently, certainly in terms of planning.

The recommendations for (local) government in brief:

  • Listen hard and learn from the initiatives.
  • Create frameworks within which initiatives can develop.
  • Examine whether the initiatives contribute to achieving the policy targets.
  • Show what is going on in your municipality and what the benefits are.
  • Waste no time in deciding whether you wish to and are able to support particular initiatives and communicate your choice clearly.