Sustainable eCommerce: How to Make Your Brand Greener

Around 60% of consumers are either 'alarmed' or 'concerned' about global warming. In just five years the number of people who are alarmed has tripled and this fast-growing group strongly supports activities that help mitigate it - including sustainable eCommerce.

eCommerce sustainability has become increasingly popular and it's no passing fad. To stay relevant and keep up with consumer demands online brands need toprioritiseeco-friendly eCommerce practices.

Why eCommerce brands should focus on sustainability

Making the transition to sustainable eCommerce can be daunting. It often requires upfront investment and delicate supply chain changes. However plenty of benefits come with running an eco-friendly eCommerce store too.

It meets consumer demands

Consumers want to make environmentally-friendly purchases so chasing eCommerce sustainability makes financial sense.

A recent survey found that 72% of shoppers around the world are already buying more eco-friendly products than they did five years ago. 82% plan to increase their consumption over the next five years too. So there's no doubt that this sustainability trend will continue to gain momentum.

Sustainable businesses have a competitive advantage

41% of US consumers actively seek out brands with strong social and environmental values. They want to support brands that align with their own beliefs.

eCommerce brands that can connect with their audience on this level have a significant advantage over their competitors. With most consumers willing to pay20% morefor eco-friendly products they can even beat out cheaper challengers.

Sustainable eCommerce practices can cut costs

Not every demographic will pay a premium for eco-friendly eCommerce options but changing your business doesn't have to result in rising prices.

Many changes won't cost much and can even save money in the long-term. For example introducing LED light bulbs and motion-detecting lights can cut costs and reduce your impact on the planet.

6 ways to introduce sustainable eCommerce

Introducing sustainable eCommerce practices will impress your audience and future proof your business in one fell swoop. Here are six key actions you can take right now.

1. Reduce your deadstock

Deadstockis inventory that is unlikely to ever be sold. Traditionally deadstock goes to landfill so it's important for sustainable eCommerce brands tominimiseit.

The best way to do this is through careful inventory management. Use demand forecasting smart ordering processes and thorough market research to make sure you order the right amount of stock. If you sell products across multiple channels use a Digital Shelf analytics software tool automatically monitor your inventory. This should reduce both stockouts and deadstock.

Any products that are left can be shifted through clearance offers product bundles and free gift promotions. You could also consider donating them to charitableorganisations.

2.Implement eco-friendly shipping options

91% of consumers want sustainable shipping options at checkout. Most consumers would also be willing to pay 10% extra to avail of them.

That's why you should check out eco-friendly shippingprogrammes. FedEx UPS and USPS all offer green options. While DHLGoGreen GLSThinkGreenand DPD Total Zero offer completely climate neutral shipping.

Brands can alsoprioritisesustainability as part of their ownfulfillment planning. Through smarter vehicle assignments and thoughtful warehouse locations companies can reduce emissions.

Last mile delivery usually accounts for a significant chunk of each shipment's carbon footprint. But you can change this by offering shoppers the option topick up packages in-storeor through a pickup service like Parcel Motel. Policies which ensure multiple purchases ship together will help too.

3. Use sustainable packaging

81% of consumersfeel that companies use excessive packaging to ship their products. To avoid this opt for inflatable packaging over packing chips and emailed receipts over packing slips.

You should also have packing boxes in a variety of sizes that will suit the different products you sell. This should reduce the amount of protective packaging you stuff inside each order.

Try to use compostable biodegradable or recyclable packaging too. And if it's made of recycled materials that's even better! Reducing plastic is key because 77% of shoppers view plastic as the least eco-friendly packaging material. In fact according toPwC 41% of shoppers avoid it when they can.

4. Reduce returns and exchanges

Minimisingyour packaging waste can significantly reduce your environmental impact. But you need to make sure your packages have enough protection to avoid wastage and returns. That's because returns aren't all that sustainable. Being shipped both ways doubles their carbon footprint.

Luckily you can take action to reduce online returns through simple actions such as:

  • Selling high quality products tominimisebreakages andmaximisecustomer satisfaction.
  • Writing clear accurate and detailed product descriptions so customers know exactly what they're ordering.
  • Actively monitoring feedback so you can address the issues that lead to returns.
  • Encouraging in-store returns if you have brick-and-mortar locations.
  • Banning serial returners from ordering products online. (This is what Amazon does!)

As well as boosting eCommerce sustainability reducing returns should also save your store money.

5. Join a carbon offsetprogramme

While signing up to a carbon offsetprogrammeshouldn't be used as a remedy for unsustainable business practices it can help make up for the unavoidable emissions that your business produces.

By investing in a project that reduces greenhouse gas emissions carbon offsets allow you to balance the amount of carbon dioxide generated when your products are manufactured sold and shipped.

Brands can cover the cost or allow shoppers to pay an optional offset charge during checkout. Software solutions likeCloverly Wren or Shopify's Offset make this easy.

Alternatively you can consider carbon offsets when choosing a shipping carrier. For example DPD offsets its carbon footprint by funding clean energy projects around the world. DHL'sGoGreenprogrammehas offsetting options too.

6. Adopt circular economy practices

The circular economy is about reusing repairing recycling and refurbishing materials as much as possible. In an eCommerce environment there are tons of ways you can do this.

IKEA runs abuy back and resell serviceto reduce furniture waste while H&M accepts old clothes which it then resells secondhand re-uses to make other products or turns it into insulation.

A simple way to movetoward eCommercesustainability would be to sell used and returned merchandise on eBay. You could also send defective or damaged products to businesses thatspecialisein refurbishment.

Marketing your sustainability efforts

eCommerce sustainability can be a big selling point so be sure to communicate the changes your brand is making.

Update your FAQs and add a page to your store which showcases your sustainability efforts. You can also create blog posts videos and other content to share your story. Spreading the word on social media is key as sustainability is particularly important to younger audiences.

Some brands completely overhaul their branding to reflect their sustainable values. This can be a good idea if you're making big changes to your pricing shipping suppliers or other aspects of your business model.

Making sustainability a key part of your identity is a great way to stand out create a meaningful brand mission and build a loyal following. Just make sure that eCommerce sustainability is truly at the heart of your business. If your promises are just empty words this is bound to damage your reputation sooner or later.

Final thoughts

Eventually states and lawmakers are likely to push for eCommerce sustainability. So it makes sense to act now - while you can still impress your customers.

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