With the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) still fresh in our minds, we look at the impact of ecommerce on sustainability and why it’s everyone’s responsibility in the industry to consider changes that can make a difference.
Over the last two decades, the ecommerce market has grown exponentially – and so has its waste. According to The Sustainability Institute, online shopping is responsible for more than 2 billion tonnes of waste annually, and consumers haven’t turned a blind eye.
Viral videos of wasteful packaging are making rounds on social media, consumers are demanding more sustainable packaging – and they’re speaking with their wallets.
Being a sustainable business is much more than ‘greenwashing’. Planting trees in some far-off field that no one looks after could hurt your brand instead of benefit it. So, what can you do?
Sustainability transparency is the way to go. Consumers are clamouring for change, and they demand to know if the brands they have always loved are eco-conscious. Social media has driven the growing voice around brand sustainability and failing to show that your brand is taking responsibility for its impact on the planet could cost your business long-term.
Here are some initial steps to take:
- Have a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy available on your website that outlines your brand’s ethics, stance on climate, and provides examples of the work you’ve done to combat climate change and help the environment.
- Make consumers aware of the tangible changes you’re making – whether that is switching the type and amount of packaging you provide or offering greener delivery alternatives.
- Don’t get swayed by ‘greenwashing’ as a way to offset your carbon footprint.
Jim Herbert, Vice President & General Manager of EMEA at ShipStation partner BigCommerce commented:
“Many ecommerce brands are changing the way they do business to take sustainability more seriously. Examples include using eco-delivery companies that deliver with electric vehicles, transitioning to recyclable or compostable packaging, and appointing an executive to promote sustainability internally.
“Balancing the needs of the customer, costs and sustainability may seem like a difficult task, but the promotion of sustainability can be a differentiator, particularly with consumers increasingly conscious of where they spend their hard-earned money.”
Recommerce is the Way Forward
Fast fashion and throwaway goods are under the spotlight. Younger consumers have embraced “recommerce”, and the surge in second-hand goods is astounding. Projected to double the size of the fashion industry by 2029 and be worth more than $64 billion by 2024, the “recommerce” market is here to stay.
An eco-friendlier approach to buying new items, recommerce is an excellent example of a closed-loop system – without the need to recycle back into raw materials. Second-hand goods are resold back into the ecommerce market and reduce a product’s CO2 impact by up to 79%.
Whilst recommerce is typically associated with fashion because of past decades of frivolous and wasteful fast fashion; it also includes refurbished electronics, upcycled furniture, and pre-loved books and toys.
Be an Expert Brand
Creating a loyal following of sustainability-focused consumers is an excellent way to build trust and create an audience that will return to buy from you again and again.
Being visible within the digital space and speaking about sustainability is going to get you noticed. Providing consumers with information via a blog, videos, or podcast about ways consumers can decrease their carbon footprint or be more sustainable is an excellent way to build brand ambassadors.
Outdoor brand Finisterre has taken it one step further in the circular economy. While they do sell ‘new’ goods, they also offer a repair service, patching existing items so they can continue to be worn year after year.
Better Business Practices
According to our Global Pulse Study, 81% of UK shoppers will still prefer to shop online even once the pandemic is well and truly behind us. With more people opting for ‘contact-free consumerism’, the impact of ecommerce on carbon emissions will continue to be heavily scrutinised.
Making sustainable changes within your ecommerce business doesn’t mean losing profits. 32% of consumers say they’d pay more for a product from a sustainable brand. Additionally, 75% of consumers want more eco-friendly (and less) packaging in their online purchases. As more consumers join the trend in buying sustainable goods, your margins will be looking more than healthy.
Read our sustainability ebook for more advice on what you can do.