The Dark Side of e-Commerce Logistics: Challenges and Implications in the Last Mile



E-commerce has enjoyed an unprecedented growth, thanks to the increased reception by shoppers and advancements in digitalization of logistics processes, as well as the new work-from-home economy resulting from the pandemic. Respectively, last mile logistics (LML) has received additional momentum amongst academics and practitioners (Risberg and Jafari, 2022). LML involves activities in the final stretch of the supply chain “from the order penetration point to the consumer’s preferred destination point” (Lim et al., 2018: 310). LML known to be a resource-consuming process requiring seamless coordination among multiple stakeholders. LML also suffers from problems such as urban congestion, lack of economies of scale and unattended deliveries in the consumer-facing realm (Brown and Guiffrida, 2014).

Despite this, much attention has been given to addressing how retailers and couriers configure their LML practices to be more efficient and stay competitive (Lim and Winkenbach, 2019). The application of crowd-shipping has been recently investigated as a solution to leverage existing mobility patterns for parcel delivery (Ghaderi et al., 2022b, Ghaderi et al., 2022a). Innovative and collaborative LML business models have also received attention from scholars, including consumer participation in LML service (Wang et al., 2019) and consumer preference for technology-led delivery options such as drones (Merkert et al., 2022). Moreover, logistics service flexibility and quality in the LML have been examined from the point of view of consumers (Sorkun et al., 2020)

Against this backdrop, the sustainability implications of LML are relatively overlooked (Mangiaracina et al., 2015, He, 2020). From an environmental standpoint, LML is known to be the most expensive and emission polluting segment of the supply chain (Ghaderi et al., 2022a). According to the World Economic Forum (2020), with no interventions, emissions and congestion from delivery traffic will continue to grow by 32% and 21% respectively, by 2030. Even solutions such as parcel lockers, may be less environmentally friendly in sparsely populated areas as the travel distances increases in the pick-up process (Peppel and Spinler, 2022). Packaging is also critical, because of its direct interface with warehouse and distribution operations and sustainability challenges (Pålsson and Sandberg, 2021). Moreover, categories such as apparel or consumer electronics, which are associated with high returns, incur higher environmental concerns (Mangiaracina et al., 2015). Handling returns is logistically sophisticated and unstructured (Hjort et al., 2019), often resulting in unsustainable practices, and high energy consumption (Pålsson et al., 2017, Edwards et al., 2010).

From a social standpoint, there is growing concern regarding welfare in the LML. The industry is often criticized for the poor working environment, high turnover rate, inefficient processes, and high health concerns for the employees (Peppel et al., 2022). Since e-commerce is associated with small orders, large assortments, tight delivery schedules, and varying workload, the workforce in conventional warehouses undergoes significant pressure, stress, and ergonomics challenges (Boysen et al., 2019). Specifically, the LM delivery sector is notorious for high safety risks, low labor wages, lack of compliance transparency, silencing culture, and legal uncertainty, especially in modern collaborative economy (Verheyen and Kołacz, 2022, Kougiannou and Mendonça, 2021).


This Special Issue seeks contributions to address the often neglected “dark side” of LML. We encourage researchers to provide insights on environmental and social sustainability impacts of LML in the e-commerce context. The special issue seeks to theorize why certain dark sides remain pervasive, and to understand how the LML and e-commerce managers and policy makers seek to address them. Methodologically, this special issue is seeking both quantitative and qualitative empirical studies, case studies, conceptual research, review, and position papers. Mathematic modelling and descriptive literature review are out of the scope for this journal. We are looking for studies with clear and novel theoretical and practical/policy contributions.

Suggested topics include (but are not limited to):

  • What are the different dark sides (negative impacts) of omni-channel LML practices on sustainability?
  • How to measure and compare the environmental and social impacts of omni-channel LML practices?
  • How do LML industry trade-off between the negative impacts of LML practices with demand for profitability and competitive service?
  • Why managers managing LML business put limited efforts to reduce the negative impacts of omni-channel LML practices?
  • How should conventional LML business models be revisited to cater for enhanced environmental and social outcomes?
  • How can platform-based LML, including crowd-shipping and crowd-storage solutions, contribute to tackling the sustainability challenges of contemporary supply chains?
  • How do retailers’ incentives and sale tactics encourage sustainable consumer behaviors?
  • How can organizations innovate and develop capability to reduce negative impacts of LML and yet achieve sustainable competitive advantage?
  • What are the challenges and opportunities with on-demand food delivery systems?
  • What are the roles of government and regulations in fostering a fairer and safer LML workforce?


Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available here.

Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Please see:  journal’s author guidelines here.

Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to ““Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Submission open:
1st of March, 2023

Submission close:
31st of August, 2023


Prof. Herbert Kotzab, University of Bremen, Germany

Herbert is a Professor of General Business and Logistics Management at University of Bremen. His research interests include omni-channel retailing, Efficient Consumer Response (ECR), and Retail Logistics.

Dr. Hamid Jafari, Jönköping University, Sweden

Hamid is a Senior Lecturer in Operations and Supply Chain Management. His research interests are supply chain capabilities, omnichannel retailing, digitalization, and sustainability.

Dr. Hadi Ghaderi, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia

Hadi is a Senior Lecturer in Logistics and Supply Chain Management at Swinburne School of Business, Law and Entrepreneurship, Melbourne, Australia. His research interest is in the intersection of digitalsiation and supply chain management, particularly future urban mobility and city logistics.

Prof. Erik Sandberg, Linköping University, Sweden.

Erik is a Professor in Logistics and Quality Management at Linköping University. His research interests cover the areas of retail supply chain management, business models, and design of circular supply chains.

Review process

Manuscripts should comply with the scope, standards, format, and editorial policy of the International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management. All papers must be submitted through the official International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management submission system ( with clear selection indicating that the submission is for this Special Issue. Before submission, authors should carefully read over the Journal’s “Author guidelines”. Papers submitted to the Special Issue will be subjected to the normal thorough double-blind review process.

Authors should select “SI: The Dark Side of e-Commerce Logistics”, from the “Choose Article Type” pull-down menu during the submission process. All contributions must not have been previously published or be under consideration for publication elsewhere.


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