Sustainable Ecommerce–What It Is and Why Your Business Should Adopt It

Sustainability is the new name of the game across multiple industries, ranging from manufacturing and clothing to farming and more. But sustainability is also important for ecommerce businesses like yours. Even though your commerce takes place online, you can still do your part for the planet and minimize waste generated by you and your customers.

But is adopting a sustainable approach really worthwhile? If so, how can you practice having a sustainable ecommerce business? Below, we’ll break down several key reasons why you should start adopting green ecommerce strategies starting today.

Why is Sustainability in Ecommerce Worthwhile?

Bringing sustainability and eco-friendliness to your ecommerce business is a good strategy for several reasons. For one thing, millennials likely make up a large part or most of your customer base due to their age and spending habits.

Millennials, possibly more than any other major demographic, are concerned with eco-friendliness on a wide scale. They can and do choose companies based on their policies toward green technologies or shipping practices. Therefore, if you want to bolster your brand recognition and attractiveness to millennials, you need to look into sustainability. Other reasons to prioritize sustainability include:

  • 73% of consumers say they’ll change their consumption habits in order to reduce environmental impact
  • Certain surveys indicate that the majority of respondents actively buy eco-friendly products where they can

In other words, shifting to sustainable ecommerce business practices isn't just good for the planet—could also be good for your business's bottom line.

How to Practice Ecommerce Sustainability

What if you don’t know how to shift your ecommerce business toward more sustainable practices and goals? Turns out, there are some easy ways you can move toward green ecommerce business ASAP.

Shift to Eco-Friendly Shipping

First, you can offer eco-friendly shipping practices. For example, you can stop offering free shipping to all your consumers and instead charge a small fee (usually not more than 5%) for a climate-neutral shipping solution. Companies such as DHL GoGreen, GLS Think Green, and more offer climate-neutral shipping for ecommerce businesses just like yours.

Worried your customers will punish you financially for making the switch? Think again. Many customers will accept having to pay for shipping so long as the ordered products reach their homes on time. Therefore, shipping with eco-friendly shipping partners could still work out for your bottom line and help you walk the walk of sustainability.

Reduce Returns

Returns are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and waste a lot of time. Therefore, you should take steps to reduce returns to your ecommerce store as much as possible. You can do this by:

  • Rerouting deliveries to a packing station if a customer is not home when an item is delivered
  • Be as specific as possible when describing or taking pictures of your products. This lowers the likelihood of a customer returning a product because it wasn’t what they expected
  • Not offering free returns—although you should be careful to enact this change while also changing your shipping policy as detailed above

By reducing returns, your ecommerce business will be responsible for less national or international shipping. Therefore, fewer greenhouse gasses will be emitted.

Implement a Recycling Program

Consider implementing a recycling program at your business. If your ecommerce company has a few employees, you and those employees should recycle any recyclable materials like aluminum cans, paper, and plastic goods.

Implementing a recycling program is a small measure in the long run, but every bit counts when we are talking about helping the planet. Depending on how much you recycle, you may be able to claim a tax credit; be sure to record everything you recycle with accounting software with features like expenses and receipt tracking tools.

Change Your Packaging

Odds are your packaging could use a little streamlining and fixing up—try to use recyclable and sustainable packaging materials wherever possible. For example, stop using plastic, which can’t be broken down by the environment, and switch to wax paper or regular paper wrappers for your goods.

Not only are these better for the environment, but they give your brand a little uniqueness that may bolster its profits in the long run. By the same token, try to avoid packaging waste entirely. For example, your boxes probably don’t need Styrofoam popcorn or other filler materials. Instead, stuff packages with more paper or use other sustainable shipping materials where needed. By eliminating shipping and packaging waste, you’ll go a long way toward doing your part for the planet.

Offer Green Products

Depending on your brand and industry, you may be able to offer green or eco-friendly products directly to your consumers. For instance, if you sell clothes online, try to offer clothes made from sustainable materials or from eco-friendly brands to your customers.

Given millennials’ focus on eco-friendliness these days, these eco-friendly products could become bestsellers for your ecommerce business in no time.

Reduce Energy Consumption

As an ecommerce business, you’ll have to use lots of energy out of necessity. But you can cut down on energy consumption for your brand by practicing strategies like:

  • Offering multiple ways to pay. According to recent statistics, 42% of shoppers prefer to use an online bank for running their small business finances. Make sure customers can pay you quickly and easily to draw business to your brand and improve eco-friendliness
  • Switching to an eco-friendly hosting provider. Some hosting providers do everything they can to minimize waste electricity or donate some of their profits toward green initiatives to improve the planet
  • Streamlining your website. If you minimize how long your website takes to load, it'll use up fewer resources and take fewer server resources at the same time, saving you money in the process

In Conclusion

All in all, sustainability is a major market force in ecommerce and is unlikely to go away. It’s much wiser to lean into this trend than to lean away from it, especially as you try to draw new consumers to your ecommerce shop and secure your profits for long-term prosperity.