Indirect stakeholders in city logistics business model development

The importance of stakeholders in the development of a sustainable urban freight sector has been highlighted in recent research. Not all stakeholders have a direct link to the supply chain, but they may still play a role in creating sustainable urban freight initiatives. These stakeholders include Public Procurement Organisations, Facility Management Companies, Business Improvement Districts, and Property Owners.

Indirect stakeholders

A study by Brettmo and Williamsson explores the initiatives that norm-setting indirect stakeholders in urban freight, referred to as ‘influencers’, established to support a more sustainable urban freight sector, and how those initiatives may impact the business models of carriers. The study uses data gathered for ongoing research into the roles of indirect stakeholders in the development of sustainable urban freight initiatives.


The results indicate that influencers can put pressure on receivers regarding logistical issues and shape the physical environment in which deliveries are conducted. Influencers use three primary strategies to support sustainable urban freight: vehicle-focused measures, consolidation linked to physical infrastructure, and consolidation through behavioral changes. These initiatives impact the relationship between receivers and carriers and may push carriers to adopt more sustainable practices as well as take decisions that impact their business models. The results highlight the often-overlooked power of influencers in relation to the development of actor behavior in the urban freight supply chain and show the potential for both conflict and change arising from the use of this power.

The main findings of the study are:

  • The influencers play an important role in promoting sustainable urban freight activities because they influence different groups of goods receivers.
  • The influencers have different relations with the goods receivers and their impacts on delivery practices differ.
  • Different types of influencers tend to engage in different types of sustainable urban freight activities based on the influencer’s own resources, goals, and range of activities.
  • The business models of carriers are likely to be impacted by the activities promoted or initiated by influencers, and the impact is greater when influencers have power through a stronger presence or more comprehensive rules.
  • The potential impact on the business models of carriers depends more on the type of activity and less on the type of influencer that initiates the sustainable urban freight activity; however, the potential for conflicts with carriers arises owing to the probable costs, including investments and operational changes, that business model changes entail.

Future research

Future research may expand on the classification of influencing organizations, list their activities, and add recommendations to the stakeholders and/or policymakers that are interested in fostering sustainable urban freight systems. Furthermore, a possible next step is to assess, through surveys or case studies, how the activities identified in this study impact the carriers that provide transport services in areas where influencers have a mandate to impact delivery conditions. By taking these steps it would be possible to develop a richer understanding of how influencers may facilitate sustainable delivery practices.

Source: Brettmo, A., & Williamsson, J. (2020). The Role of ‘Influencers’ as Drivers of a More Sustainable Urban Freight Sector. Sustainability, 12(7), 2850.


Brettmo, A., & Browne, M. (2020). Business Improvement Districts as important influencers for changing to sustainable urban freight. Cities, 97, 102558.

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