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Shopping online is convenient, accessible and easy. But, sometimes these benefits can come at the cost of the environment. From the supply chain to packaging there are many ways eCommerce retailers can become more sustainable. If you want to boost the green credentials of your eCommerce business, keep on reading to find out how.👇


Why you should make your eCommerce business more sustainable

Before we delve into the many different ways you can make your eCommerce business more sustainable, we thought we’d make the case as to why you should go green.

After all, going green will involve making some changes to your current business model – and some of these changes are bigger than others – but they are absolutely worthwhile.

Here’s why…

Consumers care about the environment.

It’s as simple as that.

But, let’s back up that rather blunt and bold statement with some facts.

According to research conducted by The Natural Marketing Institute consumers are 58% more likely to buy a company’s products or services if they know the business pays attention to its impact on the environment.

This same research also showed that consumers are willing to spend up to 20% more on a product or service if they know that it is environmentally friendly.

Here are a few more eye-opening sustainability stats:

  • 73% of global consumers are willing to change their consumption habits to reduce environmental impact, according to a Neilsen survey.
  • 75% of Millennials are more likely to change their consumption habits to help the environment compared to 34% of Baby Boomers.
  • A survey by Accenture of 6,000 consumers in North America, Europe, and Asia found that 80% of people feel it is “important or extremely important” for companies to design environmentally conscious products.

There’s no two ways about it. Becoming more sustainable will have a sustained positive impact on your bottom line.

Now, lets see how eCommerce businesses can become more sustainable…

Set sustainable supply chain goals

First and foremost, you can make your supply chain more environmentally friendly.

Everything from the materials used in your products, to the manufacturing processes used to make your goods can be optimised for sustainability.

List the goals that you want to achieve and then systematically work through your supply chain looking at how each stage can be made greener.

Ditch the plastic!

One of the simplest ways you can make your eCommerce business greener is by reducing or eliminating the use of plastic in your packaging.

Until recently it was considered the norm to use plastics such as Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE), Polypropylene (PP), and Polystyrene (PS) in product packaging.

But, with the changing tide of consumer opinion, sustainably savvy eCommerce retailers are ditching these plastic packaging materials for recycled paper and cardboard packing materials instead.

Fashion retailers such as Zara have been leading the charge in this respect, with Zara going completely plastic-free a few years ago. What’s more, Zara ships their products in recycled cardboard boxes which are designed for reuse.

Which brings us onto our next point…

Use reusable packaging

One of the most environmentally conscious things you can do is to use reusable packaging.

This will align your brand with the ‘circular economy’ – which is a growing movement that seeks to eliminate waste by reusing and recycling products and packaging wherever possible.

Multiple high-profile brands are already embracing reusable packaging. One of the most notable examples is Ted Baker. Their packages use address labels that take the form of a cardboard slip on the outside of a box. This address slip is easily removed, leaving an unmarked cardboard that can be used again and again by the consumer for myriad purposes.

Use size-appropriate packaging

How many times have you ordered something only for it to turn up in a needlessly enormous box?

Amazon is one of the main culprits for such excessive packaging practices, but indy eCommerce retailers can be just as guilty!

If you’re serious about reducing the carbon footprint of your eCommerce business, then consider investing in a wider range of packaging sizes.

Yes, it can be cheaper to just use a single standard size box/package for all of your orders, but your ecologically-minded customers will not thank you for it!

Using product appropriate packaging also yields other benefits – you’ll likely save money on carrier charges.

Offer ‘green’ delivery

If you are really serious about becoming more sustainable and demonstrating your green credentials, then you can offer a ‘green’ delivery option to your customers.

Carriers such as DPD offer sustainable delivery options. This delivery option uses fully-electric delivery vans, hyper-local micro delivery depots, and extra-sustainable packaging to make the delivery of products as green as possible.

Don’t offer free returns

This is a decision that you cannot take lightly. Today’s consumers have grown used to the idea of free returns – particularly in the fast-fashion space.

Yet, these free returns come at quite a high price for the environment.

How big a price?

A study by Vogue Business found that in the US, free returns create 5 billion pounds of landfill waste and 15 million tonnes of carbon emissions each and every year. That’s equivalent to the amount of rubbish produced by 5 million people in a year.

If you’re genuinely serious about making your eCommerce business more sustainable, bin your free returns policy.

Consolidate orders

If a customer orders more than one item, many retailers will ship these in separate packages (particularly if one item is on backorder/out of stock).

Yet doing this increases your resource usage. Think about it. For two packages alone, that’s twice the amount of packaging, two journeys, two delivery van journeys, twice the amount of carbon emissions.

Where you can, seek to consolidate multiple orders into a single package. This will significantly reduce your environmental impact.

Give the customer the option to wait a little longer – whilst explaining the environmental benefits of doing so – and you’ll improve the green credentials of your brand.

Outsource your fulfilment

If you’re fulfilling a large volume of orders in-house, the chances are you aren’t doing this particularly efficiently. It’s not necessarily your fault, your main focus is on the development and marketing of brilliant products – not fulfilment!

You can make your fulfilment process far more efficient, and therefore environmentally friendly, by outsourcing it to a fulfilment partner.

Think of it this way; a fulfilment partner specialises solely in fulfilment and as such has processes, policies and procedures in place that reduce waste, take advantage of economies of scale and more.

Plus, an outsourced fulfilment partner will have an extensive network of carrier partners, distribution centres and more. All of which reduces the journeys and associated carbon emissions of your products.

Go green with 3PL

If you want to make your eCommerce store more environmentally friendly, speak to 3PL today. We can offer you plenty of solutions that’ll cut the environmental impact of your fulfilment and help you grow your business.


Speak to 3PL about making your fulfilment more sustainable today


Find more eCommerce business, marketing and operations advice on the 3PL blog 

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