Research: reviewing sustainable city logistics from a capability approach perspective

Logistics movements in cities are rapidly increasing, in 2020 even further accelerated by the lockdown measures as part of mitigating COVID-19 crisis. The growth of city logistics has its effect on the livability of cities and therefore city administrations impose sustainable urban logistics plans to reduce CO2 emissions, congestion, and noise pollution. It is, however, questionable if these sustainable policy plans acknowledge the needs and capacities of the less wealthy (micro) enterprises in adjusting their business operations.

Groningen student Arnout de Haan did a comparative case study approach in the Dutch cities of Groningen and Zwolle, focused on the initiatives of zero-emission zones, delivery windows, and (micro)hubs. The capability approach of Sen (used for the evaluation of social arrangements or institutions and policymaking processes) in combination with the 4 A’s approach on sustainability by Macharis & Kin was the theoretical basis. Actor involvement is not one of the 4 A’s (Awareness, Avoidance, Act and shift, and Anticipation) of the concept proposed by Macharis & Kin (2016). Actor involvement, however, was added as a fifth. Through expert- and stakeholder interviews in combination with a questionnaire among micro-enterprises the implications for micro-enterprises are identified.

Although the policy initiatives are ambitious, the field of opportunity for (micro) enterprises to successfully progress in the transition is there. Time as a variable plays a critical role. On the one hand, does the time give opportunities for micro-enterprises to adjust and conform to the situation when the policy plans are implemented. On the other hand, is time subject to the uncertainty that in these current times guarantee inconvenient challenges for the micro-enterprises. As the study indicates that logistics is for micro-entrepreneurs a minor aspect of their business operation, cooperation on the street level is crucial in fostering their contributions to sustainable urban logistics.

It is important for micro-enterprises, but also for front-running enterprises to join forces and cooperate. In combination with technological developments, the degree to which capabilities are negatively affected can be minimized. 

Source: RUG

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