Sustainable eCommerce: The Future of Green Business Practices
Since the commercial boom of the industrial revolution, consumers have been focused on how products can make their lives easier. As this desire for convenience grows, our love for convenient and easy shopping is bigger than ever.
eCommerce has swiftly overtaken in-person shopping, and with it, an increase in CO2 emissions, single-use plastic, and excessive packaging waste. In recent years, there has been a massive switch of concern towards the health and sustainability of our planet, implementing green business models and ecommerce packaging, forcing eCommerce to take a stand in leading the green revolution.
What is Sustainable eCommerce?
Sustainable eCommerce can be simplified as operating a business in a way that doesn’t degrade or harm the natural environment. It attempts to satisfy the current generation’s needs without jeopardizing future generations’ demands.
The ultimate goal of sustainable eCommerce is finding the perfect balance between the environment and the economy. It is easy to assume that a rise in online stores would reduce the environmental burden. However, the sheer number of eCommerce businesses and the logistics that come with it can continue to harm the environment if not done correctly. Unless a sustainable business practice is met, as this industry continues to grow, the negative impact on the natural world will also increase.
Why is Sustainability Important?
As we move closer and closer to the point of irreversible damage to our environment, businesses and customers alike must shift their focus to creating green business practices and purchasing habits, reducing their carbon footprint and global impact.
Companies are primarily responsible for the short-term trajectory of climate change, and shifting their focus to more sustainable and green operations is a moral and practical necessity. If we are to protect our planet and resources for generations to come, the biggest offenders have to make the most significant changes.
It would be naive to believe that the impact on the environment is the most significant motivating factor for change to many companies, as the financial implications they could face should they fail to make changes could be a bigger motivator.
While the initial investment when making the change to more sustainable practices is more expensive, the long-term savings and extended financial advantages should not be forgotten. With a proper plan and application, the overall workload will lessen, resources will be saved, employee productivity and morale can be boosted, and expenses can be cut across the board, the ultimate goal of sustainability.
In today’s consumer world, adopting a sustainable and green business modal is quickly becoming a necessity for companies to remain popular and competitive. More and more, customers are demanding sustainability. They are using their purchasing influence to show their loyalty towards brands and businesses making a proper effort to reduce and mitigate their negative impact.
Additionally, the rise of the Gen Z consumer bracket is significantly changing the landscape of retail and purchasing. More than ever, the emerging generation has sent a clear message about their preferences and desires regarding their consumer loyalty. While millennials still hold the top spot of consumer groups, 75% stated they were actively changing their spending habits to be more eco-friendly, according to a survey conducted by Nielsen.
Furthermore, according to the same survey, 73% of global consumers said they would change their consumption habits in an effort to reduce their environmental impact. If companies hope to remain significant players in their industry, they will need to drastically evaluate their products, services, and operations.
Whether you start with small changes or dive in head first, there are realistic steps you can take to make your business more eco-friendly, regardless of size or industry.
Update Brand Ethos
Your brand ethos tells your customer who you are as a brand and what you value. A company that has chosen to pursue a sustainable future is one that will express its clear stance on sustainability with environmental and social changes to support these claims.
Ensuring your ethos reflects these beliefs and changes across your websites, social media platforms, and any channel your customers reach you is vital. It should be constantly updated to reflect the changes you make and stay consistent in conveying this strong statement.
The demand for fast shipping options in eCommerce has never been higher. In 2021, there were 21.5 billion parcels shipped in the U.S. alone, and the growing volume has a substantial environmental effect. A large portion of this carbon footprint occurs in the final leg of delivery, from the fulfillment center to the home address.
You can reduce your impact during this stage by using recyclable packaging materials, switching to thermal printed labels, and assessing the transportation logistics of your deliveries and returns, to reduce unnecessary travel or extended travel times.
Packaging and Printing
One of the biggest culprits of excessive and unnecessary waste in business is packaging. Making a concerted effort to reduce unnecessary product packaging can significantly impact your carbon footprint.
This can include ensuring the boxes or packaging envelopes are correctly sized for the items, eliminating extra packing fillers, and implementing recycled or recyclable materials.
Print on demand items are also a good way to reduce waste (and cost) compared to traditional printing production runs. In print on demand, only the items required need to be produced instead of the minimum number required by the print house.
If sending packages to a customer contributes negatively to the sustainable nature of business, having customers return these items has a similar effect. In 2021, retail returns hit a high of 16.6%, leading to increased packaging costs, waste, and transportation emissions.
The best way to work towards reducing this habit is by ensuring that all necessary and accompanying information about your products is up to date and correct. It should be easy to find and understand, allowing the customer to be well-informed about their purchases.