Ethical Commerce: Another E in eCommerce

April 1, 2019

With rising concerns about our carbon footprint, the importance of ethical commerce is greater than ever. In 2012, shipping accounted for 2.2% of the global carbon dioxide output. And that number is forecasted to increase by up to 250% by 2050. An ethical strategy can be a great way to reduce your company’s carbon footprint, and it can even attract new customers.

Product Origin

Market preference is important for customer satisfaction, but it’s also necessary to weigh it against social responsibility. This is a topic of importance to more and more consumers. While 66% of Americans are willing to spend more on sustainable products, that number has risen to 73% when it comes to Millennials.

Expect to receive inquiries about product origins and what you’re doing to cut down on waste. If you’ve yet to launch your physical products, now’s the time to take ethical commerce practice into consideration.

Shipping Distance

Despite the growing “shop locally” trends, people buy online at an ever-increasing rate. eCommerce exposes you to new customers all over the world. This expanded presence increases the amount of fuel burned, thus the amount of carbon dioxide emitted. To offset this, carriers such as UPS offer Carbon Neutral shipments. It is a small fee added to your shipping charge, but it is the most environmentally-friendly way to ship. It can also be good PR for your business to highlight that you are a “Carbon Neutral business.”

Another option is third-party fulfillment. If you can’t get your stock from a local company, try to have it housed in a local warehouse. Not only does decentralized inventory cut down on transportation costs and emissions, it’s a great way to cut down on your delivery times. Using something like Fulfillment by Amazon is a great way to have a third party company fulfill for you.


The bigger the cardboard box you ship is, the more materials your customers have to stuff into their recycling bins. If your packaging is too large or difficult to break down and dispose of properly, it can easily end up as litter or further the issue of landfills. Consider re-evaluating your packaging with more environmentally-friendly options. Prominently displaying that the packaging material is recyclable can also increase consumer satisfaction.

It may be worth considering options other than cardboard boxes. For instance, noissue has options for mailer envelopes made from recycled materials.

Void Fill

There are also greener alternative options to Styrofoam packaging to keep your customer’s items safe. Starch-based packing peanuts made with corn, grain, and sorghum can easily replace Styrofoam packing peanuts. There’s also biodegradable foam packaging made from sugar cane.

An alternative to packing peanuts are air pillows. They’re a popular, lightweight option. With popular brands like airDEFENDER, you can buy air pillows at a rate of about 100 cushions for $3-5.

A more biodegradable alternative for packing is brown paper fill. This option is better suited for securing items in a box that aren’t very fragile. Compacted, wadded-up brown paper may sound overly simple, but it is a common solution. It can be much more precise and quickly fills in the empty space of a package.

Social Responsibility

Reports show that 86% of Americans, which comes in second for most carbon emissions, expect companies to take responsibility for social and environmental issues.

Specifically, 76% of consumers expect companies to address issues of climate change. Millennials are the major age group driving this trend of ethical company expectations.

You don’t have to revolutionize ecommerce to do your part in curbing pollution and helping the world. But awareness of where your products come from and where everything you ship will end up goes a long way. And your customers care about it now more than ever. Connecting with the needs and concerns of customers is a boon for any business.

Get organized and efficient with ShipStation the best online shipping platform for your ecommerce business.