The eCommerce industry is booming worldwide. Owing to the global pandemic of COVID-19, most people still prefer online shopping over visiting physical stores. According to a report, the eCommerce market has grown nearly 18% in the past two years and the spike is expected to continue and reach 24.5% by 2025.
While this is great news for businesses both planning to venture into the eCommerce world and the ones who have set up an online store, it isn’t all flowery when it comes to our environment. With a rise in online shopping, the strain on the environment increases too. Packaging waste, emissions caused during shipping, and returned goods ending up in landfills are major contributors to the damage.
A recent study has suggested that nearly 73% of shoppers are willing to change their ways to reduce the impact of their shopping behavior on the environment.
In fact, 45% of consumers say they prefer brands that take a sustainable approach to do business over the ones that don’t. Let’s first understand what is the meaning of sustainability-
What is Sustainability?
In the broadest sense, sustainability is the ability to maintain a process over time. It is often broken into 3 main pillars: economic, environmental and social. Economic sustainability includes a broad set of decision-making principles that are aimed at achieving economic growth of a business without harming the environmental and social aspects.
Environmental sustainability is more about maintaining the planet and atmosphere, whereas social sustainability focuses on actions taken to eradicate hunger, poverty, etc.
This World Nature Conservation Day, let’s look at some of the ways eCommerce brands can contribute to preserving a healthy environment for a long-term sustainable society-
Invest in Eco-friendly Packaging
Packaging materials are one of the major reasons that cause eCommerce businesses to become a threat to the environment. Brands are often inclined toward using readily-available packaging materials such as bubble wrap, plastic bags, and cellophane. Such materials are made with single-use plastic and almost never decompose.
Did you know almost 50% of shoppers prefer to purchase from brands that use sustainable packaging? It’s a win-win for you – reduce your carbon footprint while attracting more customers. Eco-friendly packaging such as cloth/paper bags use recycled material that does stay as long in the environment, thus reducing the ecological impact. For example, you can start using bits of paper for cushioning instead of bubble wrap or recyclable paper instead of tissue paper. These small steps in changing your packaging will take you a long way in creating a sustainable eCommerce brand.
Product returns are one such aspect of running an eCommerce business that cannot be ignored. While not allowing returns on your store can seriously harm your business, reducing them can help you meet your sustainability goals. Reports suggest each returned item causes emissions equivalent to burning 200 gms of coal. Isn’t that shocking? It doesn’t end here – most returned goods that are defective head straight to the landfills.
Aim to prevent returns even before they take place. Reduced returns will reduce the emissions caused during reverse shipping and physical goods dumped in landfills.
- Create a customer-centric return policy that protects you from returns but also gives customers the confidence to buy from you
- Clear product descriptions can go a long way in ensuring customers understand what they are buying. An informed decision by your shopper will automatically reduce instances of returns
- Offer incentives to customers to keep the item instead of returning it
- Unlock valuable insights about your products, and returns management process by collecting continuous customer feedback that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.
- Tie up with returns management software that reduces returns for your brand. Most returns solutions in the market automate returns for online stores but there are very few that reduce returns. EcoReturns is a software that uses AI-ML-powered technology to reduce returns.
Set Up a Carbon-offsetting Option
Many brands across the globe are now incorporating the carbon-offset option on their websites to send out the message of sustainability. Your customers may not realize the environmental impact of the order they just placed. To educate them on the same and to ensure you offset the carbon emissions, partner with an organization that can plant a tree on your behalf every time an order is placed on your site.
Check out tree-nation – Tree-Nation – The worldwide platform to plant trees.
Your customers also feel they have made a small impact in contributing to a healthier planet. Such an action will enable you to tell the world about your brand ethos and is a great way to improve customer engagement.
Adopt Ecofriendly Shipping Practices
In this competitive eCommerce space, same-day shipping and next-day shipping have become common norms. But what most brands often forget is, such shipping practices take a serious toll on the environment. For shipments to reach faster, the most common modes of travel are either air freight or trucks that produce enormous amounts of greenhouse gases harming the environment. During checkout, give your customers the option to choose from the two modes of shipping – fast shipping and standard shipping. And do not forget to mention the impact fast shipping has on the environment if you want to build a strong sustainable brand image.
This World Nature Conservation Day take the first step towards building a sustainable brand. Get started with the hacks shared above and see your brand progress, both environmentally and economically. If you are looking to make your business sustainable, it’s important to start now!