How can your e-commerce business lessen its environmental impact? – Shiptheory

Sustainability is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of  future generations to meet their own needs”. Sustainable development can and has been  defined in various ways through the years, but the above definition from Our Common  Future, also known as the Brundtland Report, is the most frequently quoted despite being  over thirty years old. Making sure all people today as well as the future generations have  the means to survive and thrive matters now more than ever. 

Thankfully, in recent years there has been a change of mentality. Particularly in e commerce, consumers began to realise that speedy deliveries and single-use plastic  packaging are things that we cannot sustain forever; these conveniences have a significant environmental impact. For e-commerce brands, focusing on reducing their impact on 

the environment can lead to financial benefits and strengthen their brand loyalty as an  increasing number of consumers come to value these efforts. 

Beliefs versus convenience 

Indeed, sustainability and environmental impact are growing concerns for consumers  nowadays and influence heavily which brands they will choose to buy from. People are  willing to pay 10-15% more for products or services from companies that are aligned with  their values and use sustainable practices. On the other hand, the biggest motivation behind  why people are purchasing online is convenience, and next-day delivery e-commerce is  offering.

Although the majority of people nowadays believe that the way we treat the planet now will  have a significant impact on the future generations, 48% of consumers admit that although  they know they should care more about the environment, convenience is more important.  There is a difference between what people believe and how they behave: people vow on  doing everything in their hands to reduce their carbon footprint but only if it does not  collide with things that bring them pleasure. Similarly, although they see their consumer  behaviour as eco-friendly, they are willing to make some hard trade-offs between that and  lower prices, convenience, fast deliveries, favourite products, and more.

On the other hand, e-commerce brands are striving to deliver the most personalised,  effortless customer experience possible, but that may be damaging the environment they  vowed to protect. So how can e-commerce brands drive sustainability without jeopardising  the convenience they promised to their customers or their viability and profitability as 

companies and at the same time help them close the gap between their customers’ beliefs  and actions? 

The transition towards a sustainable model 

E-commerce has a rather sizable carbon and waste footprint: same- or next-day delivery  with a large number of extra delivery vans that translates into, products wrapped in plastic  or non-recyclable materials, many times wrapped individually rather than in bundles, excess  packaging in oversized boxes, and more. Several big brands have pledged to mitigate their  environmental impact, but that is easier said than done since these efforts can sometimes  contradict with the company’s business model. Amazon, for example, announced their plan  to become carbon neutral by 2040. Although a very welcomed initiative, it goes against the  company’s current business model that relies heavily on extremely-fast shipping standards  and supports extensive consumerism.  

Build your brand’s ethos 

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) and direct-to-consumer brands (D2C) can easier  make sustainability a core part of their business model and integrate sustainable solutions  into their products’ design, sourcing, manufacturing, marketing, selling, shipping, and  returning processes and even make their offices and warehouses more energy efficient. Making sustainability an integral part of your brand’s identity and business model will not  only be beneficial for the environment and society in general, but it will also help you  differentiate from the big brands and retailers.  

Make sure you communicate clearly your brand ethos and values to your customers; a  brand ethos that reflects your genuine stance on sustainability. Customers can see through  words-only efforts right away, so ensure that your brand has undertaken the necessary  practices that will make a measurable difference and support your promises. Reducing packaging and energy waste are two of them. Offering sustainability-focused products like  eco-friendly alternatives of existing ones is another very appealing method, but that obviously depends on the type of your business.  

Another effective way is to purchase carbon offsets. Carbon offsets are measures designed  to balance the amount of carbon dioxide your company produces by investing an equal  amount of money into projects related to greenhouse gas emissions reductions. You can  include carbon offsets into your annual budget or ask your customers for a contribution by  having an optional carbon offset charge on your ecommerce site’s checkout page. Companies like Cloverly can automate carbon offsets offering at checkout and help your  brand go greener. Their API calculates the impact of common carbon-intensive activities like  e-commerce deliveries in real-time and uses verified, quality carbon offset projects to  neutralise them.

Reuse is better than recycle 

Reducing e-commerce packaging waste is an essential step every company focused on  sustainability has to take. Choosing sustainable packaging methods and recyclable or  compostable packaging materials as well as reducing the amount of packaging by selecting the correct box size for your shipments, can considerably decrease the amount of waste  your company and your customers produce. But even if your e-commerce brand offers  recyclable packaging, that does not guarantee that your customers will necessarily recycle  it. Therefore, we recommend you take the extra step and strive to educate your customers  on how to dispose of it properly. 

Since ‘reuse’ is far better than ‘use and recycle’, as an alternative to traditional packaging,  your e-commerce brand should consider using companies like RePack. Describing itself as a  ‘reuse-as-a-service’ company, RePack provides e-commerce brands and their customers  with returnable and reusable packaging supporting that way a circular economy. Their  returnable packages are made of durable and recycled materials and come in three sizes.  The company incentivises customers to return their empty RePack bag with a reward  system that supports voucher use, charity donations, or loyalty programs. RePack fee covers  the bag and a global, empty packaging return; that way, returning an empty RePack package  is free of charge, anywhere in the world. After the customer returns the empty package, the  company checks it, cleans it, and then redistributes it.

Choose sustainable shipping methods 

As a result of the enormous increase in online shopping, last-mile shipping, the process of  transporting a package from the fulfilment centre to the delivery address, has a vast  environmental impact. Nevertheless, several international carriers offer eco-friendly  solutions like FedEx’s paperless invoicing and electric or alternative fuel delivery vehicles,  and UPS’ Eco Responsible Packaging Program. Similarly, Royal Mail operates more than 300 electric vehicles, Hermes also uses an extensive fleet of electric vehicles, and DPD claims it  will spend €200 million by 2025 to shift its delivery fleets in 225 European cities – including  25 in the UK – to low or zero carbon emission vehicles. Finally, Sendle is a registered B Corp and Australia’s first 100% carbon neutral delivery service partnering with South Pole. The  pace of change is slow, but it is most certainly welcomed.  

Conclusion 

Online shopping is fast, convenient, and at the most part, uncomplicated. Unfortunately,  most of its advantages come often at the expense of the environment; high volumes of  energy and packaging waste as well as a carbon footprint that cannot be ignored.  Unfortunately, things will not change overnight. Nevertheless, implementing a sustainability  strategy should be of the highest priority for every e-commerce brand.  

Going green is not merely good for the environment; it is also great for business. When it  comes to consumers, although quite reluctant to sacrifice their convenience usually, a  brand’s commitment to environmental issues is a significant concern. Especially younger  shoppers are starting to take a stand with their consumer decisions. As consumers become  more eco-conscious, brands that implement sustainability practices and manage to 

communicate these practices to their customers efficiently will witness significant growth  and strengthen their brand loyalty.  

No matter what sustainability practices you choose to implement to protect the  environment and meet consumer expectations, using a shipping management platform like  Shiptheory, gives you access to the best sustainable shipping solutions for your e-commerce business. That way, Shiptheory can save your company money and time, whilst helping you to reduce your carbon footprint.

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