Sustainable Ecommerce: a trend or necessity?

Sustainability hits the tipping point in consumer shopping behavior. Can ecommerce go greener?

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The trend for an eco-friendly way of life is not just a short-term trend. Ecological issues now worry every generation. And consumer shopping behavior has also fundamentally changed over the last few years.

Source: the IBM report.

Nearly 6 in 10 consumers (57%) are willing to change their purchasing habits to help reduce the negative impact on the environment, and among those who say sustainability is important for them, this jumps to 77 percent.

Source: the IBM report.

If you want to support a sustainable world, you should think of some steps to reduce the impact your ecommerce business has on the environment.

Major ecommerce brands have already started planning to implement more sustainable practices in their business. For example, Amazon pledged to bring its carbon emissions to zero by 2040.

How about small business?

For big brands that’s an easy challenge to run a few environmental programs, but what if your brand isn’t so big? We asked a few ecommerce entrepreneurs on Reddit to share their opinion and experience of practicing eco-friendly initiatives. Let’s see the answers below.

Owner of a web store from Canada:

We added the ability to offset the carbon produced by ordering from us in the checkout for a few dollars depending on where it was shipped and saw the opposite. I was pretty surprised to see almost half agree to pay the extra fee, but I think it heavily depends on your customer demographics as well.

Food products seller from the US:

It's a small thing, but personally I try to re-use as much packaging as possible. If I get a return, I reship that box as long as it isn't destroyed. Same with bubble wrap, packing paper, etc. I'll use boxes that arrive with business supplies and use those as packaging boxes too as long as they are free from branding. Not sure how much impact it has, but it makes me feel better on a personal level.

Ecommerce entrepreneur from the UK:

A huge part of our strategy and ethos has been surrounding sustainability, including carbon negativity, planting trees based on products sold, organic certification, etc. The response has been enormous, and it's a massive part of our success. We've found our returning customer rate is way higher than when we didn't push this ethos, and AOV has bumped up a good 50-60%, as we've focused on it more and more.

Some brands still support the idea that price reasons are dominant for customers, and environmental issues are overhyped.

A seller of foodservice disposables:

Been selling food service disposables for a while, eco-friendly items on paper are more attractive for customers but in reality even wholesale prices for these items are often too expensive for small restaurants to justify purchasing.

Ecommerce entrepreneur from Germany:

People won't go green if it costs them even a cent more or poses the slightest inconvenience. This is my experience.

Steps to make ecommerce business greener

So, if you’re ready to join the community of eco-friendly brands, here are some steps to lower the digital carbon footprint of your online business:

1. Green Hosting

Your data center must run on renewable energy. Yes, now even that is possible. Read more on this.

2. Efficient UX

Sounds strange until you realize that the less time a user spends during the process of purchasing, the less energy is wasted, and everyone wins. Design user journeys that bring your customers swiftly and safely. Compress images and avoid large video files. Read also how to make a sustainable website.

3. Less packaging

Many businesses are finding ways to be more eco-friendly by going paperless when possible, using biodegradable packaging, and using recyclable supplies. Remember, less is more.

That’s not eco-friendly, guys…
…that is.

4. Go paperless

Digital retail is cleaner than offline in this aspect. But it can be even more. For instance, you can send receipts only in emails instead of paper slips.

5. Green delivery and remote work

Delivery is the most significant point in terms of the carbon footprint. Use bicycle or electric cars to deliver your products and work more with local product suppliers.

Additionally, if your organization allows employees to work from home or outsource some operations, it can decrease the footprint even further.

Read more: Sustainability made easy: a guide to Salesforce Net Zero Cloud.  

6. Real care

Show your customers how you care about the environment (if you really do) to win their hearts. You can donate some of the funds to an environmental charity, show your eco results from time to time, plant trees.

Or follow Greta Thunberg on Instagram after all 🙃

We only get one planet, so green consumerism is a necessity rather than a trend. And to answer the question in the title — yes, ecommerce can be green. We can make it so.