The word of the year 2019 is not Amazon

But according to the investment bank, by 2022 Amazon Logistics will be shifting 6.5 billion packages per year.

Investment banks. Love them or hate them they are an important part of what keeps the wheels of industry turning.

They make funding decisions that can make or break startups, that help keep pension funds going, and ensure bankers get their big fat bonuses, too. Not every decision they make is a good one. Investments will always retain an element of gambling – where there’s reward, there’s risk. That’s why it has become increasingly important that those decisions are based on the best available data and analysis, and it’s why many of the big investment banks have their own hard-working analyst divisions

Morgan Stanley is one such example. And one of the things its analysts have been examining is the US parcel delivery market. They’ve been sifting through nine years’ worth of data and they’ve come to the following conclusion: Amazon will soon be delivering more parcels than FedEx, and possibly even UPS too.

Numbers – big numbers

Now, as things stand, here in 2019 Amazon is already shipping more than half its parcels through its own logistics network.

But according to the investment bank, by 2022 Amazon Logistics will be shifting 6.5 billion packages per year. That’s considerably more than the 3.5 billion Morgan Stanley predicts for FedEx and even outstrips their projection for UPS of 5 billion.

Allow me to put those numbers into perspective. If you started counting at a fairly normal, average speed it would take you something like eight days to get to one million. But to get to one billion would take you more than 30 years.

In case you’re interested, counting to one trillion would take you more than 30,000 years. Which is clearly nonsense – you’re not going to do that.

Words – important words

Something that isn’t nonsense is the concept of the word of the year. In case you are unfamiliar with it, at the end of each year most (possibly all) of the major dictionary companies (in the English-speaking world, anyway) announce their word of the year. They don’t do it as a collective, which means, in reality, there are often lots of different words of the year.

For 2019, there was some consensus: climate strike and climate emergency.

It’s the Greta Effect, obviously. She’s come in for a lot of criticism, but I doubt anyone has done as much in the last generation as Ms Thunberg when it comes to getting the climate crisis on people’s lips. Most of the criticism has been juvenile and spiteful, and frequently came from people we would all do well to stop listening to.

But back to the point… I’m not sure how we (and I really do think everyone has a stake in this) balance the need to deliver huge amounts of parcels with the need to stop treating the climate like it’s someone else’s problem. There is a real tension between the two. Those many billions of packages are, potentially, going to have a very large and very dirty carbon footprint. Unless we do something about it. There’s that word again – we.

What that something is or should be, I’m afraid I don’t know. I’m not a generously paid analyst working for an investment bank. So I don’t feel too bad about not knowing.

Actions – desired outcomes

But I do know this. It’s unrealistic to think the world of parcels, ecommerce, and deliveries is going to shrink any time soon. And it’s irresponsible to continue sending fleets of partially empty vehicles out to ship packages from A to B, via J, D, and R.

As consumers, as shoppers, we need to consider the delivery options that are presented to us and start making decision that are a combination of convenient for us and better for the environment. Business leaders and decision-makers need to start offering those greener options and then make sure people know about them.

Maybe if we’re presented with options, some of us will choose delivery methods with lower climate impact. Maybe those choices will start to influence the availability of other similar services, too. After all, it was only when one retailer started offering next-day delivery that it became a must-have for everyone else, too. Because sometimes all it takes is one brave person to start a movement.

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