Updated: Aug 12
Sustainability is one of the most important values customers have today. Unless your brand is good for the planet, customers will look for a competitor that is. Thankfully, there are many ways that you can make your eCommerce business more sustainable.
Why your eCommerce brands need to be more sustainable
Sustainability was once seen as a nice-to-have but is now expected by consumers today. If you are not a sustainable business, conscious customers will simply shop elsewhere.
The good news is that now is the best time to create a CSR strategy for your business and become more sustainable. Here are a few ways that you can make your business more eco-friendly and stay up to date with modern brand values:
Switch to Eco-Friendly Packaging
Packaging has come a long way in recent years. Shifting sentiment towards sustainability has led to a surplus of eco-friendly packaging options in the market. Here are a few things to look out for when picking a supplier:
Plastic Free items
Previously recycled materials
Easily Disposable/recycable materials
If you are looking for a sustainable packaging provider, check out our partners at Sourceful.
Use a Green Shipping Provider
Shipping items to customers is a necessary step of the online retail story, and that step also includes carbon emissions. Online retail shipping is responsible for 3% of global greenhouse gases, and that number is expected to increase to nearly 13% in the coming decades.
Take a look for greener shipping and delivery options. Green Courier (based in the UK) prioritises the lowest emitting options available. This often includes bicycles, electric vans, and ultra-low-emission vehicles for last-mile delivery. They also ship internationally - working with our charity partner the World Land Trust to help them offset their carbon emissions.
Planting trees with every order is a great initiative that all customers can get behind. Not only will the trees help rebuild habitat and capture carbon for years to come. It is also a great way for businesses to offset paper products used in their services.
Remove Plastic from your Products
Beyond shipping, there is still a lot of plastic used by businesses as part of their regular items. Take a look at your products to see where plastic can be removed.
Our friends at Dilli Grey reduced their plastic consumption by 90% back in 2020. Even simple things like switching to sustainable tags can make a big difference over time. Even something simple like removing physical invoices and relying on digital receipts can make a big difference long term.
For most businesses, it is not possible to remove 100% of plastic from their operations. That is when working with a plastic offsetting partner is a great way to help make up that difference. This is why working with plastic offsetting partners is a great option.
At Virtue, we work with a number of plastic offsetting partners including Seven Clean Seas and Plastics for Change.
Resell Used Items
Every time an item is created there is an impact on the environment, which is why re-selling previously loved items is a great option for businesses looking to be greener. Some great stores like Monty and Co have a buy-back programme where they will repurchase their older items for resale on their site.
Make your Website more Energy Efficient
The average website uses approximately 0.5 grams of CO2 per pageview, for a website with 10,000 monthly pageviews that will translate out to 60kg per year of CO2. It would take three fully mature trees to absorb that much carbon each year. That is why web design is so important.
There are some great services available that can help your website run more sustainably. Check out our list of sustainable agencies and see who could help your site.
Reduce Product Returns
At least 30% of all products ordered online are returned, that number can be even higher depending on the industry. Not only are these returned items bad for business, they are also bad for the environment. While every return has its own carbon footprint, nearly 5 billion pounds of waste are generated each year as many of the items directly end up in landfills.
Simply by listening to customer feedback and updating sizing accordingly, businesses can save money and work to reduce their environmental footprint.
Support an Environmental Charity
Ben Franklin once said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That is true today more than ever when it comes to the environment. There are a lot of things a business can do internally to be greener, but the biggest environmental impact can be made by working to conserve forests and habitats that are already at risk.
By selling an item and dedicating its proceeds to an environmental charity you can make a big impact to protect areas that are at risk of deforestation.