Ecommerce is growing tremendously. With half of all sales projected to be made online within the next ten years, it comes as no surprise that this rapid growth and expansion takes its toll on the environment.
All aspects of ecommerce can negatively impact the planet — from the product itself to how it is packaged and shipped. The ecommerce supply chain has unfortunately affected the environment and contributed to climate change.
Here are the facts:
- Each year in the US alone, enough cardboard is used in shipped packages that equates to over 1 billion trees (excludes plastic and other forms of packaging).
- Freight movement is the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions with last-mile freight a major contributor to local air pollution.
- Last-mile delivery growth will increase carbon emissions by 30% by 2030.
If you are looking to change the impact your ecommerce business has on the planet, this article covers:
- What green ecommerce is and why it’s important
- Best practices to make your ecommerce green
- Examples of brands paving the way for green ecommerce
What does “green ecommerce” mean?
Green ecommerce, otherwise known as sustainable ecommerce or eco-friendly ecommerce, refers to the concept of brands selling goods and services online while considering the environmental impact of doing business and working to reduce said impact.
Brands that sell online can provide their customers with more sustainable and eco-friendly products, while evaluating and reducing their carbon footprint of doing business.
Importance of making your ecommerce eco-friendly
We only have one Earth, and the responsibility is on us as inhabitants to take care of it, so we can leave it in a better place for the next generations.
Though building a sustainable, eco-friendly online brand has an obvious positive impact on the environment, it is also a smart business decision that will help increase customer loyalty, brand perception, and (if done right) help boost sales.
Consumer sentiment has drastically changed over the last several years. The modern consumer is purpose-driven, and they choose brands based on how well they align with their personal values. Here are some facts:
- 70% of consumers in the US and Canada think it is important that a brand is sustainable or eco-friendly.
- 68% of consumers say they’re motivated to be loyal to a brand by knowing that they share the same values.
- Though a 2020 survey found that customers are most likely to return to a brand for the product’s quality, sustainable business practices came in at second.
It’s imperative to implement more sustainable business practices to capture the growing amount of consumers who are seeking eco-friendly brands.
By showing consumers that you care about the environment, and the impact your ecommerce business has on it, you identify with them on an emotional level which will further improve customer experience and loyalty.
5 best practices for making your ecommerce green
Going green with your business doesn’t have to disrupt your entire supply chain but can improve it.
There are several actionable steps that you can take to mitigate the impact your ecommerce business has on the environment (even starting small), without hurting your bottom line (and even improving it in the long run).
1. Use eco-friendly packaging
Excess and non-recyclable packaging are huge contributors to waste. Eco-friendly packaging is made from recycled materials or those that are easily recyclable or compostable.
One eco-friendly packaging solution is EcoEnclose, which offers a variety of recyclable and/or compostable cardboard and plastic options, including boxes, bags, tape, cushioning, and even labels. Other examples include noissue and Arka, which offer branded custom packaging solutions made with eco-friendly materials.
Though switching to a more sustainable packaging solution comes with a heavier price, 70% of consumers surveyed would pay more for sustainable packaging. With that said, investing in eco-friendly packaging is worth the investment.
2. Eliminate single-use plastics
Single-use plastics are a huge contributor to waste, pollution, and climate change. It’s important to find ways to reduce the use of them throughout your supply chain (and even better, eliminate them entirely).
This could mean eliminating the act of packaging each individual item within an order in its own bag (or using ships in own container packaging), or reducing the amount of marketing collateral that is included with every order.
While the nature of some products require individual packaging for safety or sanitary reasons, look to switch it out for a biodegradable bag, or one made from recycled materials.
3. Offer carbon offsets for shipping
As we’ve established, shipping generates carbon emissions that contributes to climate change.
By using a tool like EcoCart, ecommerce businesses can calculate the precise carbon footprint of each individual order and offset it by donating that exact amount to verified carbon offsetting programs that are actively reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
With EcoCart, businesses can either opt to pay for offsets on behalf of their customers, or provide them with the option to offset at checkout, a cost that is typically 1-2% of the total order value.
EcoCart can also help your brand incorporate sustainability touch points across the customer experience to ensure your customers are aware of the initiative.
4. Purchase carbon offsets for the business
Carbon offsets are a great tool to utilize elsewhere to make your ecommerce business more sustainable. Even though your business is online, there are still a great deal of carbon emissions that result from daily logistics operations.
That’s why fulfillment company ShipBob partnered with Pachama, which allows merchants that outsource fulfillment to ShipBob to automatically offset their carbon footprint and opt-in for carbon-neutral shipping.
With Pachama, ShipBob customers can pull shipping data to determine the resulting carbon emissions, get monthly updates, and track progress to see how the impact has grown overtime. Plus, ShipBob offsets its own emissions too.
Another solution is Carbonfund, which determines the carbon footprint of different business activities, and then can offset them by supporting carbon offsetting projects.
When looking to offset carbon emissions, you may wish to have a robust and categorically diverse portfolio of offsetting projects.
5. Distribute your inventory to reduce shipping distance when possible
Many customers are accustomed to fast and expedited shipping at an affordable price. If you’re shipping out of a warehouse in California, or example, it’s next to impossible to get your customer’s order to them in New York in just two days via ground shipping, which is not as bad for the environment as air shipping.
ShipBob is a third-party logistics (3PL) company that makes it easy for merchants to split inventory across multiple fulfillment centers. That way, orders are fulfilled from the nearest fulfillment center to the order’s end destination, which optimizes last-mile delivery and reduces shipping costs.
By implementing an inventory distribution model, not only do you meet customer expectations but you also maintain a more sustainable shipping solution.
Examples of eco-friendly ecommerce brands
It can be an overwhelming journey to build an eco-friendly ecommerce business. But no matter what stage of growth your business is in, there are several solutions for building a sustainable, eco-friendly online brand.
Here are a few examples of direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands that are paving the way in eco-friendly ecommerce.
Open Water: bottled water made with recyclable aluminum
Open Water is on a mission to be the most sustainable bottled water in the world. Open Water is packed in a 100% recyclable, refillable, carbon-neutral aluminum bottle that keeps plastic out of our oceans.
Open Water’s entire supply chain is certified climate-neutral. This means that they measure, reduce, and offset the emissions that they generate as a company, from powering computers to producing and shipping their bottles and cans.
“Since the day we started Open Water, every decision has been made with sustainability in mind, from our 100% recyclable aluminum packaging to our most recent initiative: climate neutral certification.
It’s incredibly important to us to work with partners who share our values, so we couldn’t be more excited that ShipBob is making this critical climate commitment.”
Jess Page, Co-founder & Chief Brand Officer of Open Water
Herbaly: organic wellness teas
Herbaly makes certified organic wellness teas that help promote better health. Their teas are free of sugar and artificial sweeteners, they are gluten free and vegan. All their teas come in biodegradable pyramid tea bags to avoid any microplastics.
Herbaly is able to offset carbon emissions through their partnership with ShipBob who fulfills their orders, and Pachama.
“Our goal was simple: offset carbon emissions. In our search for the right partner, ShipBob was proactive in presenting Pachama, who met all of our criteria in terms of automation, transparency and integrity.
We can now share accurate data with our customers regarding the success of our reforestation initiatives, thanks to ShipBob and Pachama.”
Michael Klein, Co-Founder at Herbaly
Blue Lagoon: a skincare brand
Blue Lagoon utilizes the healing effects of the famous Blue Lagoon in Iceland to create powerful skincare products. They harvest their ingredients by way of a zero-waste process to limit their environmental impact.
They also follow the highest mandates of eco-friendly sustainability. Blue Lagoon offsets their carbon footprint from shipping orders through ShipBob and Pachama.
“Our business is built on sustainability and we aim to provide our customers with carbon-neutral products from our natural sources to their front door.
That is why we work with ShipBob to offset carbon emissions from our ecommerce supply chain. Minimize upfront investment and maximize positive impact on the planet by utilizing the simplest way to incorporate sustainability into your brand’s operations, carbon offsetting.”
Fannar Jonsson, Quality and Environment Manager at Blue Lagoon Skincare
Ocean & Co.
Ocean & Co.is a high-quality and eco-friendly apparel, jewelry, and accessory brand that is working to help save our oceans.
With each purchase, they make a donation to organizations that are preventing ocean pollution through research, awareness, and education, including the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center, The Lonely Whale, Oceana, and OneLessStraw.
In addition to their inherent mission of supporting our oceans, many of their products are made with sustainable materials, like their sea turtle tracking bracelets that are made with eco-friendly ceramic beads. With a strong mission, they have been able to sustainably grow their business.
“We started with Facebook ads and organic Instagram growth, found our mission hit home with people, and exploded to $2 million in sales in our first year.”
Gerard Ecker, Founder & CEO of Ocean & Co.
Juspy: healthy powder blends
Juspy launched a “waste not, want not” product in an effort to reduce food waste. This product variant allows customers to opt-in to receiving completely safe inventory that is less visually appealing but still effective (so it doesn’t have to be disposed entirely or create a jarring customer experience). By opting in, knowing it’s an imperfect-looking product, customers are given a discount.
To save time on logistics, they outsource fulfillment to ShipBob, which helps them control inventory by identifying and treating imperfect-looking items as a separate SKU and ship orders out efficiently.
“Rather than waste products that look less-than-ideal during the manufacturing process, we have a more sustainable solution without compromising the customer experience.
ShipBob completes a spot check for us to identify and locate such products and store them in a separate bin, so we can treat it as a separate SKU when shipping out those orders. That also saves me the time in having to deal with the return of those products to me.”
Leonie Lynch, Founder & CEO of Juspy
Boie is a personal care brand that is disrupting the industry with their re-imagined versions of classic products. Their toothbrushes and body scrubbers are eco-friendly and antibacterial., crafted with modern ergonomic design for even better performance than disposable options.
Traditional toothbrushes aren’t recyclable and end up in landfills, but Boie brushes can be sent back to them for recycling into a new product.
“We use no issue for our eco-friendly mailers that are 100% compostable, and ShipBob ships orders out for us in our custom branded packaging. ShipBob is a fulfillment partner that is truly an extension of our brand.”
Manuel de la Cruz, CEO at Boie
ThousandFell is a sustainable fashion brand that makes eco-friendly and high-quality vegan leather shoes. Their shoes are even recyclable. When you’ve worn your pair out, easily mail them back and ThousandFell will take care of the rest.
In order to limit excess waste, they ship directly in the shoebox, so there is no added cardboard that has to be dealt with.
They also work to restore natural resources, by way of carbon offsetting with EcoCart, this is in addition to being part of 1% For The Planet where they help fund projects and non-profits that give back to the environment.
ThousandFell also partners with EcoCart in order to empower their customers to make their orders carbon-neutral when they checkout.
Simbly is a sustainable furniture brand that focuses on delivering design, sustainability, and accessible pricing, all while making their furniture in the USA.
Simbly practices sustainability throughout their supply chain. They have a localized supply chain in the US and flat packing, which produces a significantly lower carbon footprint for shipping (as opposed to pre-assembled furniture). They also utilize certified wood in their furniture.
They are members of the 1% For the Planet, which means they donate 1% of revenue to environmental causes. Simbly also has partnered with EcoCart, to offset the carbon footprint of each order on behalf of their customers.
More sustainable ecommerce is better for the environment and your business.
By implementing the sustainable and eco-friendly best practices into your supply chain, you can simultaneously increase customer loyalty and attract more customers, all while working to benefit the planet we all call home.