How Can Your Business Make an Impact With Sustainable E-Commerce?

published Jul 23, 2023
2 min read

Every day is an opportunity to make your environmental impact tangible in your business. Sustainable e-commerce best practices are relatively new in the industry as eco-conscious consumerism and online shopping have simultaneous boosts in popularity.

Environment, social and governance goals are ways for companies to communicate with staff, customers and stakeholders how sustainable objectives progress. Transparency and data are crucial for proving well-placed intentions and executing meaningful outcomes.

These evidence-based methods are the most influential ways to convey green business practices and relevant impact.

Avoiding Excess Packaging Waste

Packaging for sustainable e-commerce makes an impact in several ways. The product’s first impression can influence consumers’ perception of the brand, increasing repeat purchases by 42% if sustainable. Unnecessary waste or frills will turn off customers because they know how it impacts the planet, including:

  • Packing peanuts or related products that are not recyclable.
  • Boxes within boxes.
  • Shipping one order in separate shipments.
  • Including freebies customers will not use and send to the landfill.

Primarily, it changes customer behaviors. Organizations publicizing their environmental commitment catalyze customer action, such as recycling or communicating with stores to alter their sustainable e-commerce best practices. The more awareness companies encourage, the more likely consumers are to purchase sustainable products, and increase their lifecycle through recycling and positive discourse. Around 94% of people in the U.S. support recycling so long as they can see precisely what to recycle in the packaging and how.

E-commerce shops should emphasize increasing ethical packing materials alongside packaging rotations — the number of cycles reusable packaging goes through in its life — to decrease carbon emissions. Exceeding 20 rotations is ideal for sustainable packaging goals because most of the emissions come from transportation, cleaning and preparing materials for new packages.

Businesses impact this by encouraging a circular economy and recycling infrastructure. Additionally, mitigating the impact of packaging waste allows further process discovery in other business operations, such as transportation.

Implementing Greener Shipping Options

Sustainable shipping manifests in various ways, from eco-friendly vehicles and fuels to finding ways to cut down on returns to offsetting shipping emissions through third-party services. These initiatives each have ranging impacts on e-commerce stores.

Though making a return is a customer choice, e-commerce companies have significant control over minimizing them. E-commerce returns range from 20%–30%, increasing transportation-related emissions. Presenting accurate photos and writing approachable, thorough sales copy helps customers understand what they are buying.

Most customers initiate a return when the product does not align with their expectations and these influences improve their chances of satisfaction. Additionally, businesses can have strict return policies and offer incentives — such as discounts — if they do not return a product.

Carbon-neutral shipping is everywhere. Consumers can see green leaves next to their shipping options and elect to make their shipment more sustainable for an upcharge. Since most popular offerings are not well-established, e-commerce businesses should find well-established third parties to offer meaningful carbon offsets. It might be years before their carbon impact is visible.

Adding solar energy to your e-commerce business plan strongly supports sustainable practices. The rapid growth of digital platforms in e-commerce inadvertently boosts energy consumption, and shifting to solar power can dramatically mitigate these effects, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels. This solar shift primarily involves installing solar panels to convert sunlight into usable electricity for everyday business operations.

The second, equally important aspect is the ability to generate solar leads. Businesses can expand their customer base by promoting and selling solar power solutions to potential customers seeking renewable energy options. This can range from direct retail of solar products on the e-commerce platform to strategic partnerships with established solar providers. As well as promoting environmental responsibility, this simultaneously unlocks new avenues for business growth.

Finding a Way to Promote Circular Practices

First, organizations must stock eco-friendly products before they can hope to make their business model circular. Circularity means dismantling the idea of a product’s lifecycle. It forces e-commerce to construct a sustainable item while empowering customers to take eco-friendly action when they no longer want or finish using it.

Resale companies — also called C2C e-commerce businesses — partner with other brands to get products back into the hands of consumers. Online shops can impact sustainability by partnering or investing in these ideas, or bringing them to their operations. Their value is easy to see, as brands like Trove and Reflaunt received over $123 million in funding to promote circular economic practices.

Regardless of how online sites incorporate circular practices, having the technology to collect data is vital. How many customers are taking advantage of trade-in or reuse programs? How does it impact revenue? Does it entice people to make repeat purchases?

Sustainable E-Commerce Best Practices in Action

There are more options outside sustainable packaging, shipping and circular economic practices for e-commerce companies to go greener. The way to separate online shops that make an impact and those that do not is through data and transparency. By acknowledging existing research to determine priorities, e-commerce organizations can become more sustainable for a future reliant on online shopping.