When Steve Evans established XeroE in 2019, he did so with the goal of helping to clean up the air in urban areas.
Riding through central London, experiencing the polluted air and thinking about the negative impact this was having on people, he put a plan together for an emission-free delivery platform that incorporated new mobility technology.
Receiving investment from Bethnal Green Ventures, Evans ran a trial service in London before officially launching the platform in June 2020.
Throughout the past three and a half years, the core purpose of improving air quality has remained central to Evans’ approach and in pursuit of this goal he collaborated with Imperial College Consultants to develop an algorithm that calculates emissions savings.
“The algorithm enables us to track the emissions generated by our vehicles and then compare them with what the client would have used to complete deliveries in the past,” he tells Zag Daily.
“Imperial College went into an incredible level of detail calculating all the emissions associated with each vehicle and delivery which means that we can create credible reports that demonstrate the difference switching to electric vans, e-bikes or cargo bikes can make.”
Sustainability reporting can be fraught with businesses desperate to prove their environmental credentials to discerning customers. This has led some firms to make claims that are not necessarily based on fact, and Evans is keen to eradicate this.
“There are a lot of false or subjective measures being used by some companies, while others rely on carbon offsetting to claim they are net zero,” he explains.
“We want to clean up the air in urban areas and reduce the amount of particulate matter that is poisoning people. Planting trees elsewhere is not going to solve the issue of emissions produced in the cities you operate.”
After the business launched in 2020, XeroE produced an annual impact report calculating the emissions that its operations generated. It has continued to publish the report at the end of each year – the XeroE 2023 Impact Report is available now – and the business also generates a similar report for each client.
“Our database even allows us to calculate the environmental impact made by each rider, street, postcode or borough,” Evans adds.
“This has been really useful for demonstrating our value. For example, we can show prospective clients that we saved 12,125kg of carbon in the city of Bristol during 2023.”
XeroE is also one of just 8,000 companies around the world to have been granted B Corp status, a certification awarded to companies that meet “high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency”.
Firms seeking this certification are judged and scored in each area, with only those scoring above 80 able to achieve B Corp Status. During XeroE’s evaluation process, it scored 109.
“We are the highest scoring logistics B Corp in the world,” Evans says.
“B Corp went through our algorithm to ensure it was credible and they gave it the seal of approval. They also set up two new business model categories based on our application, because we demonstrated that our impact could be measured in terms of electric powered and human powered vehicles.”
To date, XeroE has delivered more than one million parcels and has built a network of couriers covering numerous UK cities including London, Bristol, Oxford and Nottingham.
It has tended to work with smaller businesses to date, such as suppliers for retail or foodservice outlets and sole traders operating e-commerce platforms, but it does have some national clients including florist Bloom & Wild.
In April 2023, the firm was acquired by final-mile logistics service Delivery Mates, and XeroE has since taken advantage of its new parent company’s widespread presence and fleet size to grow further.
“Delivery Mates has operations in Spain and Italy among other countries, as well as a new project set to start soon in Amsterdam,” Evans says.
“This enables us to offer other cities too and makes our offering to potential clients more appealing. Furthermore, we can take advantage of Delivery Mates’ network of regional hubs to make our last-mile deliveries more economical.”
Deliveries were initially completed on bikes and cargo bikes, but XeroE has since added electric vans and e-scooters to its platform. Based on the 2023 Impact Report, 44% of deliveries were completed by electric van, 25% on cargo bikes, 10% on e-scooters and 6% on bikes.
It can also use this data to rank couriers, a process that Evans believes creates “internal competition”.
He continues: “Some of our riders have been with us since day one and are very loyal to us, but it’s important to keep track of performance as they are competitive.”
While 2023 has been a positive year for XeroE, Evans is focused on areas of the operation that can be improved.
“My biggest learning from the past year is that the middle mile remains our biggest concern,” he says.
“The economics of the middle mile make sustainable deliveries more expensive, because they are very efficient within cities.”
In terms of solutions, Evans believes that growing the volume of clients will ensure that lorry space is being used and each journey is more efficient in terms of environmental impact and cost.
“That critical mass and network of sustainable companies makes the middle mile more economical,” he adds.
“By the end of 2024, I want us to operate in 24 cities and to have solved this middle mile issue. To achieve this target, we need to launch with between five and 10 riders and drivers in each city.”