Given the current pace of ecommerce growth and worldwide ecommerce sales projected to exceed $6.3T by the end of the year, it’s important to consider the industry’s environmental impact on our planet.
And what better time to do it than on the eve of Earth Day?
In this greener ecommerce 2023 Earth Day edition, get ready for some eco-friendly e-commerce tips and tricks to help you reduce your business’s environmental impact, and welcome in Earth Day with a bang.
How Can Ecommerce Be More Sustainable?
Ecommerce has revolutionized the way we shop, but at what cost? With 2.64 billion online shoppers indulging in online shopping and ecommerce logistic CO2 emissions expected to climb from 19 million tonnes to 35 million tonnes by 2030, the environmental impact of ecommerce is becoming increasingly apparent.
The good news is that there are several ways to make ecommerce more sustainable.
Enter green ecommerce.
What Is Green Ecommerce?
Green ecommerce is just like traditional ecommerce but with a sustainable twist. It’s all about coming up with fresh, creative ideas to reduce waste, minimize carbon emissions, and make responsible choices in every step of the process—from sourcing to manufacturing, shipping, and delivery.
Sounds great. But why take on these initiatives?
Green ecommerce retailers understand that they have a role to play in addressing the global climate crisis and are willing to take bold action to reduce their carbon footprint. Research shows the leading sustainability initiatives invested in by ecommerce brands include
- allowing customers to recycle products,
- improving manufacturing efficiency,
- partnering with third-party sustainable manufacturers and retailers,
- tracking emissions and offsetting emissions,
- and embracing Fairtrade standards for workers and their communities.
It’s not just about the planet, though. Green ecommerce also makes good business sense.
By being environmentally responsible, sustainable brands set themselves apart from their less environmentally conscious counterparts and appeal to a growing base of eco-conscious consumers. Better yet, McKinsey & Co. has found that adopting sustainable resource management practices can boost a business’s operating revenue by up to 60 percent.
In the coming sections, we’ll touch more on the benefits of green ecommerce for online businesses. But first, let’s check in with some brands that are killing it in the green ecommerce space.
Businesses That Are Winning With Eco-Friendly Ecommerce
There are some stellar examples of sustainable DTC brands (direct-to-consumer) successfully integrating sustainable practices into their operations while still meeting customer demand and turning industry-leading profits.
Check them out.
Patagonia has long been known for its strong commitment to environmental sustainability and social responsibility. The company’s green ecommerce initiatives, like its Worn Wear program, reflect its core values and mission. From the materials it uses to its manufacturing processes and shipping methods, Patagonia strives to minimize its impact on the environment.
Etsy‘s online marketplace, specializing in handmade and vintage goods, has made sustainability and green ecommerce a key part of its business model. With commitments like powering its marketplace with 100 percent renewable electricity and pledges to be carbon neutral by 2030, the company is committed to reducing its carbon footprint and minimizing its commercial impact on the environment.
The Renewal Workshop
The Renewal Workshop specializes in renewing clothing and textiles that would otherwise be considered waste. Their mission is to create a circular system of production where waste is minimized, and products are recycled, repaired, or renewed. The Renewal Workshop has a unique approach to sustainable ecommerce by partnering with fashion brands to renew and repair their products. They work with companies to keep unsold inventory out of landfills and help to reduce their carbon footprint.
Looking for more sustainable brands, just like the ones above? Check out these eco-friendly places to shop.
World Wide Advantages of Greener Ecommerce for Business
What do businesses stand to gain from adopting green ecommerce practices?
Let’s take a look:
- Eco-friendly businesses attract customers. A McKinsey & Co. survey reveals 66% of respondents and 75% of millennials consider sustainability in their purchasing decisions. Brands that align with this demand stand to increase acquisition and customer loyalty.
- Positive brand image. 70 percent of US and Canadian consumers prioritize purchasing from brands they perceive as sustainable and eco-friendly.
- Access to new markets. 68 percent of consumers claim they are motivated to be loyal to brands that share their values. This means that implementing green ecommerce practices can unlock new markets and customer bases that are increasingly environmentally conscious.
- Cost savings. Green ecommerce practices help companies reduce waste and carbon footprint, and cut down on energy and transportation costs, ultimately boosting the bottom line of sustainable businesses.
Learn what it means to be a sustainable brand here.
Positive Impact on the Environment
And the environment, what are the advantages of green ecommerce initiatives?
Let’s take a quick look:
- Lowered carbon footprint. By implementing green ecommerce practices, businesses reduce the carbon emissions that result from manufacturing and transporting goods—a major contributor to global climate change.
- Reduced waste. Using recycled and compostable materials in packaging reduces the need for virgin materials and minimizes waste’s impact on landfills and ecosystems.
- Improved air quality. Sustainable ecommerce practices improve air quality by reducing pollution from transportation and production.
- Protection of ecosystems. Sustainable ecommerce practices help preserve the Earth’s delicate ecosystems and protect the wildlife that relies on them by minimizing the use of harmful chemicals and reducing waste.
- Fairtrade standards. Embracing Fairtrade wage practices, ecommerce businesses ensure their products are made by workers who are paid a living wage for their labor, supporting entire communities and eliminating the need to turn to unsustainable industries.
Strategies for Making Ecommerce Greener
So what do you think? Ready to join the ranks of industry-leading green ecommerce businesses?
Alrighty then. Let’s explore how you can align your business with sustainable ecommerce best practices.
Use of Eco-Friendly Packaging Materials
Through the use of sustainable packaging options like recycled cardboard, biodegradable packing tape, or compostable mailers, businesses reduce waste and avoid the costs associated with traditional plastic or styrofoam packaging.
Eco-friendly packaging materials have many benefits, including:
- reducing waste and shrinking your carbon footprint,
- minimizing the use of chemicals and virgin plastics,
- being biodegradable and reducing the waste of natural resources for production,
- and are often toxin and allergen-free.
What’s more, with consumers claiming they are “somewhat concerned” to “extremely concerned” about the environmental impacts of packaging, it’s becoming more apparent that your customers are tuned into the availability of eco-friendly packaging options.
Minimizing Waste Through Efficient Shipping Methods
Optimizing shipping methods and minimizing packaging allows businesses to reduce transportation costs, lower their carbon footprint, and improve customer satisfaction by delivering orders quickly and reliably.
To achieve this, you could use tactics such as reducing packaging size and weight, implementing reverse logistics, and switching to carbon-neutral shipping options, all of which will improve the efficiency of getting orders to your customer’s front door.
Encouraging Customers to Recycle and Reduce Waste
Encouraging customers to recycle and reduce waste is a simple but effective way for ecommerce businesses to reduce their environmental impact and improve their bottom line. To do so, you should provide your customers with clear instructions on how to recycle packaging materials, offer incentives for returning used products, and stock eco-friendly alternatives to single-use products.
Develop Recycling and Repair Programs
By repairing and refurbishing returned products, businesses reduce the waste generated and minimize the need for new product manufacturing. This, in turn, helps conserve resources and reduce a business’s carbon footprint.
From a financial perspective, recycling and repair programs help businesses save on the costs of disposing of unwanted products and materials and manufacturing new products. But the best part—it increases customer loyalty. Because as we’ve seen, customers are more likely to purchase from a company that values sustainability and social responsibility.
Switch to Green Energy Sources in Warehouses and Data Centers
Energy waste is another massive issue for ecommerce businesses. So by switching to renewable energy sources like solar, you can lower your business’s reliance on fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
While there may be some initial investment costs, over time, you’ll save money on energy bills and reduce your overall operational costs. And better yet, with 73 percent of your competitors set to take on higher energy costs because of inflationary energy prices, unlike your competitors, you will avoid these costs.
Offer Carbon Offsets
Last but not least, consider investing in carbon offsets, like those offered through EcoCart’s verified carbon standard offsets. Our Shopify plugin and soon-to-be-released API allow businesses—just like yours—to offset the carbon emissions associated with customer orders at checkout, effortlessly establishing a sustainable shopping cart and making ecommerce businesses carbon-neutral and environmentally responsible.
Learn more about Ecocart, the sustainability app for ecommerce, here.
One of the biggest challenges facing green ecommerce companies is ensuring products align with social responsibility standards as well as environmental. Fortunately, many organizations exist to guide businesses along this path. Fair Trade USA and the Rainforest Alliance are two perfect examples of Fairtrade standards being implemented. Both organizations ensure fair wages and better working conditions for workers in developing countries.
Rethink Your Manufacturing Process
Sustainable initiatives don’t just have to be implemented post-production. You can also rethink your manufacturing process and establish a business model that’s sustainably responsible, top to bottom.
Ecommerce businesses can implement sustainable practices and achieve carbon neutrality by:
- Leveraging Industry 4.0 technologies to enhance sustainability, such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and data analytics.
- Encouraging consumers to make sustainable choices through digital green nudges—policy initiatives that use digital technology to encourage consumers to make more environmentally friendly choices.
- Focusing on emission reduction or investing in projects to offset emissions.
Research shows that in the United States alone, creating paper-based receipts consumes 250 million gallons of oil, 10 million trees, and 1 billion gallons of water annually.
So simply going paperless is a massive step in making your business more sustainable.
Learn more about why existing trees are worth protecting.
Sustainably Manage Inventory
Implementing sustainable inventory management helps ecommerce businesses become more sustainable by reducing the carbon footprint of their inventory, maintaining optimal stock levels, and eliminating overstock.
And like most sustainable initiatives, research has found that it enhances organizational performance and reduces operational costs.
Strive for Regenerative Sustainability
Regenerative sustainability is a holistic approach beyond preventing further damage or repairing past harm. Instead, it recognizes the interdependence of all living systems and seeks to generate positive outcomes that benefit both the environment and society as a whole.
This involves fostering vital connections between ecological, social, and economic systems and prioritizing the planet’s long-term health.
Ecommerce stores can embrace regenerative sustainability by:
- Implementing regenerative design principles in their warehouses and offices. This involves creating energy-efficient buildings that work in harmony with the natural environment, using sustainable materials, and integrating green spaces to support biodiversity.
- Partnering with suppliers and manufacturers that prioritize regenerative agriculture, which focuses on building healthy soils, improving biodiversity, and reducing the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
- Embracing regenerative supply chain practices, such as using renewable energy to power their operations, optimizing shipping routes to reduce emissions, and developing closed-loop systems for product returns and recycling.
Role of Consumers in Promoting Greener Ecommerce
By adopting desirable habits that create positive spillover, consumers also play a crucial role in promoting greener ecommerce. But they can’t do this by themselves. They need a little help from retailers, just like you.
How can you help out? By empowering your customers to make informed purchasing decisions.
Importance of Informed Purchasing Decisions
Consumers increasingly seek to buy products from environmentally responsible brands. However, making purchasing decisions is not always straightforward. With so many factors to consider, customers can feel overwhelmed.
So, how can you help your customers feel confident about buying from your brand?
Focusing on green practices and actively communicating is key to satisfying consumers about sustainable, fair, and durable products. Enriched product descriptions help customers understand eco-friendly goods, while high-quality images, videos, and informative user reviews all promote sustainable ecommerce.
Promoting Green Initiatives Through Social Media and Word of Mouth
Social media also has a solid part to play in green ecommerce. Why? Word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful tool for ecommerce businesses, as it convinces existing customers to tell their family and friends about products they’re happy with.
So by promoting green aspects of your company through content assets at all points of customer contact, including websites, blogs, email, and social media, you will promote your green initiatives and help your customers make sustainable purchasing decisions.
Supporting Businesses With Sustainable Practices
Joining forces with like-minded organizations is another very effective way to reduce your carbon footprint. Whether it’s partnering with businesses that prioritize sustainability or implementing small changes to your operations, every effort counts. And not only will you be doing your part for the environment, but you’ll also be joining a community of environmentally conscious companies who share your values.
Sustainable ecommerce practices benefit the environment and make good business sense.
And here’s the cherry on top: by promoting sustainable ecommerce practices, you’re setting an example for others in the industry and inspiring them to take action. So, not only are you doing your part to help the planet, but you’re also creating a positive impact on society.
That’s a win-win in our book!
Carbon offset projects that are easily accessed by your business and offered to your customers in a manner that’s effective and effortless. One easy way to make your ecommerce site more eco-friendly is with a carbon-neutral shipping option from EcoCart—request a demo today.