5 tips to improve sustainability in e-commerce

Sophie Grosvenor February 24th 2023 - 3 minute read

A new law passed by the European Commission, which forms part of the European Green Deal, hopes to eliminate wasteful packaging. The European Green Deal hopes to put an end to wasteful packaging. Something for which many businesses in the e-commerce space are culpable.

Ensuring your business improves its approach to sustainability is as important as ever. With an increasing push for sustainability from consumers, everyone should be taking steps in limiting their impact on the environment.

In this article we’ve looked at what steps you can take to help improve the sustainability of your e-commerce business.

Packaging

With the sheer amount of waste that packaging produces, the first and most important move to make your business more sustainable is by looking at your business’ packaging. Before even looking at more environmentally friendly materials, reducing the amount of packaging used is the first step to being both eco-friendly and cost-effective.

The next option is to switch your packaging materials to recycled materials, as opposed to virgin plastics. However, bio-degradable, and compostable options might not be as eco-friendly as you think. Many of these options require industrial composting facilities or won’t actually break down unless under specific conditions.

By ensuring your packaging is robust enough to extend its shelf life goes a long way in being sustainable. A strong parcel bag could be repurposed or reused, ensure good communication around this with your customers, help them to rethink their sustainability practices.

Shipping

Going hand in hand with packaging, reassessing your shipping options can be a great way to reduce your company’s impact on the environment. Consider giving your customers the option to group multiple orders in one shipment at a saving, or look at greener shipping options. With how eco-conscious many consumers are now, appeal to this and make sure your sustainability goals are in line with theirs.

Promote environmentally-friendly shipping options and explore less impactful methods. However, that is easier said than done in the world of global e-commerce. International shipping can be one such minefield. With air miles being one of the most environmentally damaging methods of transportation, alternatives are available.

Shipping via boat is one of the more environmentally friendly methods, but it does with a price. Delivery times can be much longer, but having the option for the more eco-conscious customer can be rewarding.

Otherwise, choosing to work with logistics companies who are more environmentally friendly can be the next best thing. Many courier companies are making commitments to reducing their own impact by opting to use all-electric vehicles in their fleet. Working with businesses who share the same sustainability goals can be hugely beneficial.

Returns

Another often-overlooked aspect to bringing e-commerce in line with sustainability is the returns process. In this day and age of ordering multiple options, and returning any unwanted items, the number of returns has naturally sky-rocketed. Ensure your return policy is not only friendly to the customer, but to the planet as well.

Offer flexible and convenient ways for customers to return items. Encourage them to return unwanted items at a local company. Reduce the carbon footprint of return shipping and provide customers with a convenient alternative.

Supply Chain

By taking a considerate approach to the supply chain could make a crucial difference in a company’s efforts in shifting to a more sustainable business model. The impact of the supply chain is one of the biggest on a company’s footprint. Therefore, by being proactive in choosing suppliers or brands that adhere to a more sustainable approach, can elevate your company’s efforts.

Fashion retailer Zara has announced that by 2025, they will only use organic and recycled materials. By taking a similar stand in how your business sources products and services, your reduced impact on the planet could be both economically and environmentally beneficial. Nielsen have reported that 73% of shoppers have changed their habits to reduce their environmental impact, with 72% choosing to shop more sustainable products.

Greenwashing

One potential minefield when it comes to being more sustainable, is greenwashing. It is found that many companies who promote sustainability at the core of their business do it purely for marketing reasons, and one look behind the scenes reveal the opposite.

In 2019, fashion retailer H&M claimed that their ‘conscious’ range of clothing were sustainable. However, as no proof to back this claim was found, the Norwegian Consumer Authority ruled that H&M were employing false advertising, and punished them accordingly.

By pivoting your brand identity to a more sustainable approach can vastly improve your reputation. However, ensure your customers are aware of how you intend to become more sustainable, and be transparent in your attempts. Emphasise your business’ commitment to a more sustainable model, and how they will benefit both consumers and the company.

Written by
Sophie Grosvenor

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