These days sustainability has become a growing concern for online retailers. It reflects humanity’s response to the destructive force of modern consumerism. As a result, the e-commerce sector is adapting through various approaches such as more eco-friendly business models or packaging.
Online retails have been considering problems such as corporate social responsibility and environmentally friendly practices in the supply chain in order to satisfy changing demands from their customers.
At the global level, more than 2 billion tons of waste are disposed of in landfills every year. A lot of this waste comes from packaging. All the boxes, Styrofoam peanuts, and plastic packaging puffs have to go somewhere.
Many stores have already given their products an ecological update and entered the green market with cardboard, cork, paper, and wooden pallets. Some companies have successfully established themselves as green businesses.
What Is Sustainability, Exactly?
Sustainability can take various shapes, from business strategies to product packaging, and all of them will have a massive effect on the eCommerce sector in the future years.
At its most basic level, it refers to a long-term balance that would allow us to obtain what we need from our planet without overusing or exhausting resources.
Sustainability has a few basic principles that apply to four main domains:
- The material domain refers to controlling the flow of resources that fuel our existence – how we use, manage, preserve and regenerate these resources.
- The economic domain refers to how people, companies, governments, and society as a whole can create and manage wealth.
- The life domain refers to people’s behavior in the biosphere and how we might live in harmony with nature.
- The spiritual domain refers to the required mental attitude and developing a code of ethics.
A remarkable improvement is occurring in the field of sustainable shipping. For example, surveys show that consumers prefer buying from retailers with sustainable shipping. They’re willing to pay a higher price if this means they’re helping protect the environment. This preference is not surprising. Many people also opt for reusable fabric bags when buying from brick-and-mortar stores.
Even while offering fast delivery is necessary for some product categories, as an online retailer, you should be aware that it is not an environmentally friendly practice. Simply by pointing this out, you are showing your environmentally conscious customers that you are concerned with these issues, and you’d be strengthening your brand in the process. Amazon, for example, has started offering slower shipping options to customers in return for discounts, store credit, and other rewards.
Fast delivery means that the packages won’t be as consolidated as they could be, resulting in more trucks and cars being needed to get them to customers, contributing to traffic congestion and air pollution. Fast delivery can also mean more packaging waste.
According to research from the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics, by waiting up to five days for deliveries, customers could reduce dioxide emissions in the last mile of delivery by approximately 30%.
Avoiding Packaging Waste
Another way eCommerce businesses can become more environmentally friendly is by avoiding packaging waste. Switching to renewable materials and minimizing packaging have become the new standard and most businesses nowadays are very waste-aware.
This objective will require some research. First, you must determine which packaging design best represents your company. For example, you can use recycled materials to make your packaging. Putting your logo on a packaging design that emphasizes sustainability will give your customers the kind of unboxing experience that will help you gain brand loyalty.
Deliveries and Returns
When customers are not at home and leaving their package with a neighbor is not an option, their orders are usually returned to the store. A more sustainable approach is to divert the packages to a packing station to avoid repeated delivery attempts.
You should also try to minimize returns by providing clear descriptions of your products. If you sell clothes, for example, make size and color specifications as detailed as possible and use clear language. Defining terms like taupe as gray-brown could lead to fewer returns because you have to keep in mind that when a customer orders a product, the display of the device they use can change how colors look, and having a clear written description would reduce errors.
Nowadays, consumers are expecting a lot more transparency than they used to. If a brand markets itself as eco-friendly, it needs to prove its commitment.
One of the most effective methods to establish your brand’s authority as a green business is to be transparent. Make your green goals known to the public and publish updates with data regularly to show that your commitment is authentic.
Transparency is a hallmark of today’s top companies, but accusations of greenwashing are not rare. That’s why it’s important to go into depth when describing the environmental impact of your products and what you’re doing to implement more sustainable practices.
The most successful green businesses are the ones that aren’t afraid to show the raw truth behind their claims. The ones that are don’t inspire trust. If you market yourself as environmentally conscious, this has to show in every aspect of your business.
Stay True to Your Branding
Have you ever been let down by a brand you liked? Maybe you read about something questionable they did that contradicted everything they said they believe in. Now that we live in the digital age, a brand’s every move can be tracked and documented. Any customer has access to this information by simply googling the name of your company. So, in addition to being transparent, you need to be consistent.
When including sustainability in your brand’s messaging, consider why your customers care about this and what demographic you’re targeting – their beliefs, values, lifestyle. Then, use the kind of language they are most likely to respond to and stick to this messaging. A company that tries to appeal to everyone ends up missing its target.
You’ll also want to create guidelines so that everyone representing your company – from the management team to customer support – knows how to speak on behalf of your brand.