Sustainability in eCommerce

The world is forever changing and you should be doing all you can to make sure that your business is at the top of its game. This means you should be constantly modernising, adapting and following trends to please your target audience. 

Millions of people around the world care and want to make a difference when it comes to our planet. This is not a dying trend, but, instead a new way of live for many people. We no longer need to make changes to protect only our future generations, we need to make changes to protect our own livelihoods.

Global warming, shortages of essential supplies and increasing land and water pollution are issues we are all facing today and your business therefore ought to be adapting to make a change. 

Did you know…

The amount of plastic we have in the world outnumbers the amount of sea life at an outstanding figure of six to one. 

plastic waste

10 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean every single year and if we keep producing plastic like we have been for the past 10 years, it has been estimated that by 2050 12 billion tons of plastic will be in landfill. 

And how long does this plastic take to decompose you ask? 

A single plastic bottle can take up to 450 years to decompose. 

So, although we’ve thrown a lot of statistics at you here, we hope you are now see why sustainability in eCommerce is such a vital step to take.

A third of consumers prefer sustainable brands and 21% would actively choose a sustainable brand over one that has little consideration of sustainability and these figures are only increasing as more and more people are becoming environmentally conscious. 

Customers are developing a new approach to sustainability, being a huge focus in recent news and on social media platforms, the younger generations especially, are becoming more aware of the world they are living in.

Business will have to adapt this as sustainability in businesses is only going to get bigger and therefore it is essential you adapt and make changes, however small they maybe, to be successful in the upcoming years and to do your bit to creating a healthier planet. 

 

But, what does it mean to be sustainable?

Sustainability in eCommerce is to not exhaust the planets resources and make changes to the way you are running your business now, to help the future generations. 

Look at it as balance, sustainability is the ability of a company to supply its demand whilst being forward thinking and looking at supporting what will be demand in the future. An eCommerce company needs to meet today’s needs without draining the supplies of those in the future. 

recycling

Take the example that we began with, plastic is not a sustainable material and the more we manufacture and sell today, will only lead to issues for our future generations. 

But, it’s not just future generations that will have to cope with this ordeal but it is beginning to affect us now and so we must act immediately. 

 

The Three Pillars of Sustainability.

Environmental.

eCommerce companies often focus on environmental factors when looking to becoming more sustainable. They often do this by looking at reducing packaging as well as reducing their carbon footprint wherever they can. 

Economic.

Any company will have to make sure it is profitable in order to prevent its insolvency – something we’re sure is obvious to you. Therefore, profit cannot be for fitted at the expense of the other two pillars; environmental and social. Therefore it is important that the company understands how they can implement the pillars without causing any loss of profit. 

Social.

This pillar focuses on the well-being of the environment, including a company’s employees and the surrounding community. It also focuses on the supply chain and encouraging fairness for all involved in that chain. 

pillars of sustainability

 

Don’t let sustainability back-lash.

So, you have the opportunity to potentially increase your online traffic, help the environment and potentially upsurge profits, a win, win, win, right? 

But, being a sustainable eCommerce company may have its setbacks for some and you need to be aware of what those are to avoid falling victim to them. 

Firstly, although it is a great idea to become sustainable, this may come at a price for your business. This may mean that you may have to add a premium onto your products or services, which could turn people away. Although the statistics say most people would opt for a sustainable company, most would unlikely pay a premium rate for it.

To avoid this, make sure you have your target audience as a focus and make sure that they are sustainability-focused before thinking about making the move. 

Make sure you are making changes that make a difference. Don’t just say you are a sustainable company, but show to your consumers that you are making a difference to the community. Most consumers will see through false efforts and will more often than not be turned away by these, unless they see you checking and making a real difference. 

 

But, how do you make your eCommerce business more sustainable? 

Here are a few ways you can be sustainable, these changes can be as big or small as you choose: 

Make your shipping and packaging more sustainable.

This can be done in a variety of different ways, from simple ways such as paperless invoicing, to completely reducing the way you package items. 

It may be worth looking into the eco-friendly programs of huge carriers such as USPS and FED-EX and see if they are applicable to your company. 

Try your best to include the most detailed description and images of your product on your site. This will in turn avoid unnecessary returns as a return doubles the environmental impact shipping an item has on the environment.

zero waste packaging

Be sure to add a discouraging message on your site and also on your shipping to try and stop as many people making a return. This is also an economic factor – the less returns you get, the more profit you’re making. 

Access packaging is also another key way eCommerce companies can be more sustainable. Save on packaging where possible. This mean you can reduce box sizes, by doing this you will not only use less cardboard but also less packaging inside the box to fluff it out to protect the items. 

An example of a company that is demonstrating this is apparel company PVH, which owns brands including Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.

Improve your brand spirit.

Your brand ethos should reflect your entire business model. If you want to prove to consumers that your brand is sustainable this need to be shown in a variety of different ways.

A brand that has a very strong ethos when it comes to sustainability is ‘The People Tree’. 

People Tree Logo

On your website; dedicate a page to what your company is doing to be sustainable. Create a passionate and bold statement and make your customers believe you are really making a difference. 

Change your packaging; create packaging with statements printed (or a thermal printer if you want to be extra environmentally cautious) with recycling awareness. 

Add to your merchandise; add a little note (or send via email to save paper) ways in which the customer can recycle their unwanted packaging. Even add a shocking statistic in there to grab their attention that little bit more. 

Offline efforts.

Offline efforts to become an increasingly more sustainable company could include posters around your office to remind people to switch off lights when they’re not in the room, or, turning to energy saving lights where possible. 

This is also a great idea for endorsement on your social media platforms, it’s only a small change but could go a long way for your business in the way people view it as economically friendly. 

If you want to amplify these efforts, don’t just stop there, make larger changes that have a bigger impact. This could include energy saving printers for example. 

Add options to your checkout.

Shipping, more often than not comes in more than one form. You usually have ‘next day’, ‘2-3 working days’ or 5 working days as options right? 

These options often also come at a premium cost. Next day delivery will be more expensive and so on. However, what about, after each option you explain the shipping process and encourage people, if it is not an emergency purchase to choose the more environmentally friendly option.

delivery options

Explain the process and the carbon foot print caused by this delivery. Hey, it may even mean that some will think more before pressing that order button and increase their basket quantity rather than just a one off purchase that has a big impact on the environment. 

The next few steps will be dependent on the type of products you sell:

Pre-loved products.

Advertise you are interested in a second life for your product. This is known as circular economy. This may include creating or getting involved in a ‘pre-loved marketplace’ and encouraging customers to get involved.

You can encourage your customers to both buy and sell their old products and give life to 2nd or even 3rd hand products. 

Add sustainable products to your product list.

You could do this as a free ‘add-on’ to a purchase over £50 for example or simple add little products that encourage sustainability to your product list.

These things could include small things such as ‘sustainable hand cream’ or you could do this on a larger scale. 

Reduce your footprint where possible.

Many companies have found, despite having to pay tariffs, importing goods is a lot cheaper way to make products. 

Roughly around 80% of the produce (luxury items) made in the UK today are exported. Meaning a vast majority of luxury items, such as clothing, footwear etc. are all imported from around the world. By doing this, yes we may be getting cheaper produce, but we are increasing our carbon footprint by an astonishing amount!

plane cargo

In the USA, they are facing the same problem. In the 1980’s, 70% of their clothing was made in the US, however today, this figure has decreased to just 2%. This means that masses amounts of clothing are being imported, when the country has the ability to be 70% self-sufficient in their clothing industry.  

Manufacturing in our own country not only boosts our own economy but it also reduce our carbon footprint and reduces the strain that is already being placed on the environment. 

Know your supply chain. 

You need to know all about your own supply chain, from textiles to who is making your final product. A supply chain often looks a little something like this: 

Textiles are made in India, are then transported to Japan to be designed, which is then transported to china to be sewed, which is then transported to the UK to be sold. 

Knowing about the different stages of this chain will allow you to make informed and appropriate decisions in cutting down certain things where possible to make your brand more sustainable. 

 

Final Word.

To conclude, there are a variety of different ways you as an eCommerce brand can be actively more sustainable. The world, particularly consumers, more often than not want to make a difference to the environment and play their part and so, by showing you are doing your bit will not only benefit your profits, but will also help the planet, the community and your employees – as well as keep your customers satisfied. 

 

 

 

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