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Ecommerce Sustainability Scorecard: What’s Your Brand’s Sustainability Score?

Brands use sustainability scorecards to get an idea of where they stand and to inform a sustainability strategy. In this post, we’ll go through what a sustainability scorecard is, how to develop a sustainability strategy, and strategy execution.

What Is A Sustainability Scorecard?

A sustainability scorecard is a measurement tool used by e-commerce businesses to measure, track, and report on their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance. It provides a quantifiable snapshot of a company’s sustainability efforts by diving into key areas like supply chain waste, packaging materials, and impact on local communities. This tool offers a clear picture of a brand’s environmental impact. 

To deepen this understanding, many businesses integrate life cycle analyses (LCA) into their sustainability efforts. An LCA examines every stage of a product’s life—from raw material extraction to end-of-life disposal. Taking the time to look at the different sustainability metrics per product allows a clearer evaluation of your brand that can be used to inform your sustainability scorecard.

Why Your Business Needs A Sustainability Scorecard

Sustainability is more than a trend; consumers care about sustainability. A notable 80% of consumers favor brands with sustainable histories. Accenture highlights that 47% might abandon brands lacking sustainability, with 17% never returning. The CGS 2019 survey reveals two-thirds of Americans prioritize sustainability in purchases, with Gen Z leading: 68% made an eco-friendly buy last year.

Sustainability scorecards serve as both a compass and a roadmap. They not only highlight a brand’s current environmental stance but also illuminate the path forward, ensuring that sustainability isn’t just a buzzword but a core business strategy. 

Benefits Of Sustainability Scorecards In Ecommerce

By adopting these scorecards, e-commerce businesses can enjoy the benefits that resonate with both their operational goals and their audience’s expectations.

  • Establishes Accountability: A scorecard sets clear metrics and benchmarks, ensuring that businesses don’t just make promises but actively work towards fulfilling them.
  • Provides Talking Points: With a sustainability scorecard in hand, brands have concrete data to share with stakeholders, from customers to investors, showcasing their commitment to eco-friendly practices.
  • Gives a Clear Path to Sustainability: The scorecard acts as a guide, highlighting areas of improvement and success, ensuring that businesses have a structured approach to enhancing their sustainability efforts.
  • Enhances Brand Reputation: In an age where consumers are increasingly eco-conscious, having a sustainability scorecard can elevate a brand’s image, making it a preferred choice for those seeking sustainable options.
  • Drives Operational Efficiency: By focusing on sustainable business operations, businesses often uncover areas where resources can be conserved or processes streamlined, leading to cost savings.
  • Fosters Stakeholder Engagement: A transparent sustainability scorecard can foster trust and engagement among stakeholders, encouraging collaborative efforts towards a greener future.

Embracing sustainability scorecards in e-commerce is not just about environmental responsibility; it’s a strategic move that offers a company some tangible benefits and positions a brand for long-term success.

What Does A Sustainability Scorecard Measure?

A sustainability scorecard provides a comprehensive snapshot of an organization’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance. It looks at various facets of sustainability, offering quantifiable metrics that reflect a company’s commitment to eco-friendly and ethical practices. 

To get a clear picture of where you stand in every category, review our recommended sustainability KPIs in ecommerce

Here’s a breakdown of what sustainability scorecards typically encompass.

Operational Efficiency & Ecological Impact: Focuses on the environmental impact of e-commerce operations.

  • Packaging: Using biodegradable, recycled, or minimal packaging for shipments.
  • Energy Efficient Warehousing: Using renewable energy sources and energy-saving measures in warehouses.
  • Digital Carbon Footprint: Reducing server emissions and using green hosting solutions.
  • Local Sourcing: Prioritizing local suppliers to reduce transportation emissions.
  • Return Policy: Sustainable returns to minimize shipping emissions.
  • Waste Management: Implementing systems to reduce, reuse, and recycle waste from operations.
  • Water Conservation: Using water-efficient systems in warehouses and offices.
  • Biodiversity: Ensuring operations do not harm local ecosystems or wildlife.

Financial Sustainability: Economic aspects of sustainability in e-commerce.

  • Sustainable Pricing: Reflecting environmental costs in product pricing.
  • Green Investments: Investing in green technologies or sustainable initiatives.
  • Long-term Value: Offering durable products to reduce repurchases.
  • Eco-friendly Partnerships: Collaborating with green brands or services.

Community & Stakeholder Engagement: Societal and community aspects of sustainability.

  • Fair Labor Practices: Ethical treatment and pay for workers.
  • Stakeholder Communication: Transparent sustainability efforts communication.
  • Customer Education: Guiding customers on sustainable choices.

Cultural & Branding Initiatives: Cultural preservation and promotion in sustainability.

  • Sustainable Brand Image: A brand image valuing sustainability.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Products respecting and celebrating cultural diversity.

Innovative Business Models: E-commerce business innovation with sustainability.

  • Product-as-a-Service: Rental or lease basis products to reduce waste.
  • Circular Economy Initiatives: Business models focusing on product reuse and recycling.
  • Digital-first Initiatives: Digital products/services with lower environmental impact.

With these scorecard items, a sustainability scorecard offers a holistic view of an organization’s sustainability journey, guiding its path towards a greener future. We’ll go through how to do that a little further in this post.

Options For Sustainability Scorecard Assessment

  1. Take this quiz
  2. Hire a private organization to evaluate your business and make recommendations on how to improve it
  3. Make your own scorecard and calculate your carbon footprint

Sustainability Scorecards And Reporting

Sustainability scorecards offer a focused, metric-driven evaluation of specific sustainability aspects. When it comes time to report on these findings, or the state of your business, you’ll want to present them in a more digestible way. Sustainability reporting provides a comprehensive overview of an organization’s sustainability performance. 

Both tools are essential for organizations committed to sustainability, as they offer different levels of insight and cater to varied stakeholder needs.

AspectSustainability ScorecardsSustainability Reporting
PurposeMeasure and track performance against specific sustainability indicators or criteria.Detail an organization’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance over a specific period.
AudiencePrimarily internal (management teams), but can also be shared externally.Primarily external stakeholders (investors, customers, regulators, general public).
ContentFocus on specific metrics or KPIs with quantitative assessment.Provides both quantitative data and qualitative information about the organization’s sustainability efforts.
IntegrationData from scorecards can feed into the broader sustainability report.Elaborates on insights from scorecards, offering a comprehensive view.
FrequencyUpdated more frequently (e.g., monthly, quarterly).Typically published annually.
Impact on DecisionsProvide quick insights for short-term decision-making and adjustments.Influences long-term strategies, stakeholder engagement, and organizational reputation.

Types Of Sustainability Scorecards

There are several types of scorecards to guide businesses in their sustainability efforts. These scorecards offer a structured approach to measure progress and improve sustainability efforts. Let’s get into a few popular ones:

  1. Initiative-Based Assessments
  2. Policy-Based Assessments
  3. Emissions-Based Assessments

Initiative-Based Assessments

These focus on specific sustainability initiatives or projects. Whether it’s reducing plastic use or promoting fair labor practices, these scorecards track progress against set goals. This is a popular option for sustainability in DTC retail.

Here are a few examples of sustainability initiatives:

  • Plastic-Free Challenge: Tracks reduction in single-use plastics and the introduction of plastic-free products.
  • Fair Trade Compliance: Evaluates adherence to fair trade practices, including partnerships with fair trade cooperatives.
  • Water Conservation Initiative: Monitors water usage in production and the implementation of water-saving technologies.
  • Carbon Offsetting Projects: Allows brands to reduce their carbon footprint. Read more about carbon offsetting for businesses.

Here are a few initiative-based scorecards in ecommerce:

  • Fossil-free Fashion Scorecard by Stand.earth: This scorecard evaluates fashion brands on their commitment to reducing fossil fuel dependency in their operations and products. It provides a comprehensive assessment of brands based on their sustainability initiatives.
  • Bee-Friendly Retailer Scorecard by Friends of the Earth: This scorecard ranks retailers based on their commitment to protecting pollinators. It evaluates brands on their use of pesticides, transparency, and overall commitment to bee-friendly practices.

Policy-Based Assessments

A broader approach, these scorecards evaluate a company’s overall sustainability policies. They help businesses ensure that their policies align with global sustainability standards and best practices.

Here are a few examples of sustainability policies:

  • Sustainable Return Policy: Measures the environmental impact of product returns and the recycling or repurposing of returned items.
  • Stakeholder Engagement: Assesses communication of sustainability efforts to stakeholders and transparency of reporting.
  • Diversity and Inclusion Policy: Tracks workforce diversity and feedback on inclusivity efforts.

Here are a few policy-based scorecards in ecommerce:

Emissions-Based Assessments

As the name suggests, these scorecards are dedicated to measuring a company’s emissions. They provide insights into areas where emissions can be reduced, helping businesses take concrete steps towards a smaller carbon footprint.

A few examples of emissions-based scorecards might be:

  • Digital Emissions: Measures the carbon footprint of digital operations, including server emissions.
  • Transportation Emissions: Evaluates carbon emissions from shipping and transportation.
  • Product Lifecycle Emissions: Assesses carbon emissions of a product from production to disposal.

Each type of scorecard offers unique insights, allowing ecommerce businesses to tailor their sustainability strategies effectively. By choosing the right scorecard, businesses can make informed decisions and showcase their commitment to a greener future.

Here are a few emissions-based scorecards in ecommerce:

  • EcoCart’s Emissions Dashboard For Ecommerce Shops: This dashboard allows ecommerce brands to monitor their real-time carbon emissions and pinpoint high-emission areas. With user-friendly metrics, it also facilitates sharing eco-contributions and tailoring campaigns for eco-conscious shoppers.
  • E-Commerce Carbon Neutrality by Net0: This scorecard offers tools and metrics for ecommerce businesses to measure and offset their carbon emissions, ensuring a carbon-neutral shopping experience.
  • Shipping Decarbonization Report Card by Ship It Zero: This report card evaluates the carbon emissions associated with shipping processes and offers insights into how ecommerce businesses can reduce their shipping-related carbon footprint.
  • Environmental Footprint by eBay Inc.: eBay provides a framework for assessing the environmental impact of its operations, focusing on carbon emissions and offering strategies for reduction.
sustainability kpis

Types of Sustainability Reporting

Brands are increasingly recognizing the value of reporting on their sustainability efforts, not just as a means of showcasing their commitment to the environment and social responsibility, but also as a strategic move to build trust with consumers, employees, investors, and stakeholders. Reporting on scorecard findings offers a structured way to communicate progress, challenges, and future plans, reinforcing a brand’s credibility and dedication to sustainable practices.

Several globally recognized sustainability reporting standards help brands in this endeavor:

  • Global Reporting Initiative (GRI): A leading standard for sustainability reporting, GRI provides a comprehensive framework for organizations to report on their economic, environmental, and social impacts. Get more info here.
  • Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB): Focused on the financial sector, SASB offers industry-specific standards that help businesses disclose financially material sustainability information to investors. Get more info here.
  • Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD): Established by the Financial Stability Board, TCFD provides guidelines for companies to disclose climate-related financial risks and opportunities, aiding informed investment decisions. Get more info here.
  • Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP): An international non-profit, CDP runs a global disclosure system for companies to manage and share vital environmental data, emphasizing the impact of carbon emissions. Get more info here.

By adhering to these standards, brands can ensure they’re providing accurate, relevant, and consistent information, fostering trust and demonstrating their genuine commitment to a sustainable future.

10 Questions For Improving Sustainability In Ecommerce

  1. Have you conducted a comprehensive sustainability audit for your e-commerce operations?
  2. How do your product sourcing and supply chain practices align with sustainable and ethical standards?
  3. Are your packaging materials eco-friendly, and have you considered implementing a return or recycle program?
  4. How are you minimizing the carbon footprint of your shipping and delivery processes?
  5. How often do you engage with your suppliers and manufacturers about their sustainability practices?
  6. Have you considered offering sustainable or eco-friendly products to cater to a more conscious consumer base?
  7. How do you educate and inform your customers about the sustainability efforts and choices they can make while shopping on your platform?
  8. Are there sustainability goals and benchmarks integrated into your business strategy and KPIs?
  9. How do you handle product returns and waste to ensure minimal environmental impact?
  10. Have you set clear, measurable sustainability targets for the next year, and how do you plan to achieve them?

Sustainability Plan Example

  1. Recognize the unique sustainability challenges and opportunities in e-commerce.
  2. Define what sustainability means for your online retail operations.
  3. Conduct a comprehensive sustainability audit of your e-commerce process.
  4. Perform a life cycle analysis on key products to understand environmental impacts from production to disposal.
  5. Identify high-impact areas from the analysis, such as resource consumption, waste, and emissions.
  6. Assess and improve the sustainability practices of your suppliers and manufacturers. 
  7. Opt for eco-friendly packaging and sustainable shipping solutions.
  8. Install any eco-friendly apps that support your brand’s sustainability goals.
  9. Seek any green certifications for businesses that align with your brand’s sustainability vision.
  10. Foster a strong internal culture of sustainability and ensure team alignment.
  11. Educate customers on sustainable choices, product care, and recycling through your platform.
  12. Set measurable sustainability targets, such as reducing waste or offsetting emissions.
  13. Regularly track, monitor, and adjust your strategies based on progress and life cycle insights.

Learn more: How To Make Shopify Store More Sustainable

Common Questions About Sustainability In Ecommerce

Navigating the realm of sustainability in ecommerce can be complex. Here are some frequently asked questions to help clarify key concepts:

What are the sustainability KPIs?

Sustainability KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are specific metrics used to track and measure a company’s environmental, social, and economic impacts. Common KPIs include carbon emissions, water usage, waste reduction, energy efficiency, and sustainable sourcing.

How do you measure sustainability performance?

Sustainability performance is measured using a combination of quantitative metrics (like energy consumption or waste produced) and qualitative assessments (such as stakeholder feedback or third-party audits). Tools like sustainability scorecards and reporting standards can aid in this process.

What are the easiest ways to improve sustainability?

To quickly improve sustainability, brands can:

  • Implement offsetting projects.
  • Adopt eco-friendly packaging.
  • Opt for energy-efficient operations.
  • Prioritize local sourcing to reduce transportation emissions.
  • Educate consumers about sustainable choices.

These steps offer a starting point for brands to integrate sustainability into their operations effectively.

Conclusion

Embracing sustainability in ecommerce is more than just a trend; it’s a strategic imperative for brands aiming to thrive in today’s eco-conscious market. By using sustainability scorecards, businesses can gain invaluable insights into their environmental impact, allowing them to make informed decisions and foster trust with their audience.

Ready to elevate your brand’s sustainability journey? Book a demo with EcoCart and discover how you can make a tangible difference in the ecommerce landscape.

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