It’s no secret that online shopping has enjoyed a surge in popularity. eCommerce sales in 2022 reached a record high of $1.03 trillion and show no signs of slowing. But eCommerce retailers shouldn’t take this boom period for granted; with consumers increasingly focused on sustainability and ethical shopping, it’s important to adapt to these needs — or risk going bust.
Climate Change Fosters Sustainability Movement
The effects of climate change on our planet are hard to ignore these days, and many people are demanding change. A recent Nielsen survey found that 73% of consumers have adjusted their buying habits to reduce their environmental impact and 72% are actively buying more sustainable products than they were five years ago. This provides an opportunity for eCommerce retailers to attract environmentally conscious shoppers while mitigating the impacts the supply chain and eCommerce have on the environment.
Taking a big picture approach means adopting production, management, sale, and distribution practices that more effectively utilize natural resources. But what exactly does that mean?
6 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Regardless of the types of goods you are selling, here are some effective ways eCommerce merchants can reduce their carbon footprint.
- Implement sustainable shipping methods. With 21.5 billion parcels shipped in the U.S. in 2021, there’s no denying the fact that shipping has a significant environmental impact — especially during last-mile delivery. Consolidating orders and shipments, exploring eco-friendly programs offered by major carriers, using thermal printers for shipping labels to save ink, and adopting paperless invoicing are all steps you can take to make your shipping process more “green.”
- Reduce packaging waste. Packaging is crucial for protecting goods during transport, but is responsible for 45% of eCommerce greenhouse gas emissions — the largest source in the industry. Make your packaging more environmentally friendly by using recyclable and reusable materials as much as possible. Avoid plastic, which is difficult to separate and recycle and creates substantial emissions during production; limit the amount of packing and filler material; and avoid packaging that is too large — buy boxes in as many sizes as necessary to accommodate the various products you sell.
- Lower your return rate. Shipping items to your customer already impacts sustainability; when those products come back to you, the environmental impact is essentially doubled. Reduce your return rate by making sure all product information is as accurate and up to date as possible so consumers know exactly what they are buying. If necessary, invest in a PIM (Product Information Management) system to help ensure all product data is correct.
- Develop recycling initiatives. Taking the initiative and creating recycling policies shows you are truly committed to practicing what you preach. This begins with choosing sustainable packaging materials, of course, but take it a step further by encouraging your customers to reuse packaging from their shipments or return it to you. Rather than disposing of used goods, create a channel such as a third-party marketplace for reselling them.
- Create a carbon offset charge. Carbon offsets are credits organizations earn for reducing their carbon footprint. Adding an optional carbon offset charge at checkout can help balance the amount of carbon dioxide emissions used in producing and shipping your product by channeling funds to projects that work to reduce greenhouse gasses. You can also set aside funds yourself and make regular contributions.
- Partner with sustainable brands. You don’t have to do all the heavy lifting yourself. Teaming up with companies and brands that have ethical and sustainable practices, and heavily promoting their products, helps you make a positive difference too.
Sustainability may be all the buzz lately, but it’s more than just a passing fad. As the impacts of climate change continue to be felt worldwide, the future of the planet is at stake. Implementing any or all of the above practices will position you as a retailer devoted to creating a sustainable future, and could easily make you stand out from your competitors!