The Current, delivered daily.
5 ways to incorporate sustainability into your ecommerce strategy
Go Global Ecommerce's Simone De Ruosi shares sustainable practices, from brand to shipping.
The world of ecommerce and sustainability have more in common than meets the eye. By aligning your goals with sustainability practices, you can increase customer loyalty and trust while saving money. From utilizing renewable-energy sources to investing in eco-friendly packaging solutions, there are numerous ways your company can make operations more sustainable while still staying true to your ecommerce objectives.
You might be surprised at how easily sustainability in ecommerce can align itself to your company's broader strategic objectives, whether that's cross-border ecommerce or further sustainability goals such as reduced energy consumption. For example, brand messaging can be leveraged to emphasize your company's values and commitment to e-commerce sustainability to customers and employees.
Additionally, sustainability practices can also help cut costs by allowing your business to get grants from the government. These grants can be used for solar panels or for eco-friendly and recyclable packaging, which can help you pay fewer taxes, reduce waste, and save the planet while bolstering your bottom line.
What sustainability initiatives do ecommerce customers expect?
Brand messaging is key for any company, regardless of its target audience. For example, Pew Research Center has found that Gen Z and Millenials are highly aware of and engaged with environmental topics, while older people may not be as invested. Additionally, there are 8 billion people worldwide, so there are numerous cultures and expectations to take into account when planning a sustainable ecommerce strategy.
That being said, global brands typically have an audience that cares about the environment. Customers often expect to see meaningful improvements in sustainability practices such as zero emissions, zero impact, and zero carbon footprint. Customers are more likely to favor companies that are actively making these improvements to the environment, and it is becoming increasingly clear that this is a requirement for successful businesses selling worldwide.
When you think of global brands who are doing a good job handling sustainability, Patagonia often comes to mind. Not only does Patagonia practice sustainability with durable products, but they also donate their profits to national parks, charities, and other foundations.
Similarly, The North Face is a brand focusing on sustainable fashion by developing a polymer jacket that is almost entirely recyclable. Customers can even return their jackets and receive credit toward buying a new one.
Lastly, luxury brand Prada contributes to sustainability in ecommerce by offering eco-friendly shoes and fashion apparel. Fashion is one of the most difficult industries to create sustainable e-commerce strategies due to the shipping, logistics, and waste that comes with exporting resources from all over the world. Yet these examples are proof that effective businesses can combine sustainability and e-commerce to create even more success, even when it comes to international ecommerce shipping.
Incorporate sustainability in your ecommerce operations now
In the modern age, reputation and brand sentiment are everything. This means that to remain competitive in the ecommerce industry, business must consider all stakeholders, not just the customer. This includes employees, investors, and shareholders. The risks of not taking adequate care of all business stakeholders may include financial loss and reputational damage.
Investors may find more attractive investments elsewhere, employees may seek work with other companies who uphold their values, and customers may look elsewhere for products that better suit their needs. The same applies to customers who may choose not to go with your brand due to lack of sustainability or other criteria they prioritize. As sustainability is becoming more and more important, businesses have the potential to lose their competitive edge if they do not meet these standards.
These issues are not only related to sustainability, but also ethics and societal well-being. Such complications can be prevented by implementing improvements in the supply chain. The same is true for sustainability; it's essential to act before something truly dire happens and affects your bottom line in a way that is irreversible.
Remember, 95% of emissions come from logistics, so to reduce your carbon footprint, focus on reducing logistic emissions. You can work with companies like DHL and FedEx that offer a "Go Green" option which offsets emissions, thereby creating a zero-carbon footprint and boosting your brand's reputation for sustainability.
You can also select green options for shipments and consider solar panels for warehouse roofs. After all, you must have sustainability policies in place to improve your carbon footprint before being allowed ecommerce access to some countries in Europe, for example. As such, it's imperative to start early and begin showing records of your ecommerce sustainability efforts to investors and customers.
Implement sustainability into international shipping strategies
Solutions that focus on sustainable practices — from logistics and packaging to returns — are essential to help your brand stand apart from the rest, maintain positive customer sentiment and boost your yearly revenue. If you're unsure where to begin, you can start by following the five simple solutions below to get your business on the track to success.
1. Balance shipments with carbon offsets.
The first step should be to invest in carbon-offset programs for international ecommerce shipping. Using these programs will help significantly reduce your emissions and are easy ways to put your business at the forefront of climate solutions.
2. Reduce packaging and improve efficiency.
There are three methods for reducing packaging: diminishing the packaging for each item, maximizing the effectiveness of the package itself, and eliminating excess air from the container. All of these solutions help your business maintain sustainable ecommerce standards, meet customer expectations and help reduce costs.
3. Use recyclable or biodegradable materials for packaging.
Material that is recyclable or compostable could be a much more sustainable choice compared to conventional packaging materials. Choosing these sustainable options means even the packaging used for your shipments and returns would be green, further boosting your sustainability efforts.
4. Localize warehouses to reduce the number of shipments.
Offering returns domestically and providing lockers for shipment pickups can help to save money and improve the last mile of delivery. Couriers can also be sent to one place where lockers are instead of spending a full day making deliveries.
5. Choose sustainable suppliers.
Pick suppliers for your raw materials who clearly demonstrate their own set of sustainable ecommerce values, such as using warehouses powered by solar panels. This ensures that your business is not only meeting your own sustainability goals, but you're also contributing to a more sustainable environment for further cross-border ecommerce operations.
In summary, your company can create a sustainable and successful ecommerce platform by building your value chain, optimizing and improving every process and encouraging your team to think of ways they can reduce emissions. After all, having a team that is aligned on both a policy level and value level makes it easier to make sustainable ecommerce a reality — not to mention achieve cross-border ecommerce success that is both efficient and ecologically conscious.
Simone De Ruosi is the CEO and founder of Go Global Ecommerce.
Trending in Operations
What the US can learn from Europe's omnichannel leaders
Italy topped NewStore's audit of global omnichannel adoption across Europe and Australia.
For brands and retailers, omnichannel is no longer optional.
That’s a big learning from the pandemic, when demand for online shopping surged, and retailers built up capabilities to extend the shopping experience across digital and physical stores.
While ecommerce sales growth may slow from its breakneck pace to move back to its previous trajectory, the capabilities built by brands to serve shoppers wherever they happen to be aren’t going to be taken away anytime soon.
It has reoriented how brands think about the elements that are necessary to put in place for success in retail.
“Brands have to be all in on omnichannel, so there is no one tool that is more important than the rest,” said Phil Granof, CMO of NewStore. “Capabilities like BOPIS, BORIS, endless aisle, and store fulfillment have become table stakes for every brand. Going forward, retailers should focus on building seamless, omnichannel experiences that meet the needs of their customers, regardless of where they are located. That means offering solutions that best meet the individual needs of their business.”
However, the parts of those experiences will be adjusted as technology develops, and consumer behavior shifts. Retailers will still have to act quickly to respond to shifts in demand, Granof said. That has been evident in the years since 2020. While the pandemic lockdown phase has passed, the macroeconomic environment driven by inflation and interest rates is now upending day-to-day processes, and reshaping priorities and budgets.
What was built to meet the last moment can be refined in this one.
“Today, it’s important for these businesses to take stock of what’s working and what isn’t — especially when it comes to the quick fixes implemented to meet an immediate need a few years ago,” Granof said. “Now is the time for brands to invest in a tech stack built for the long haul vs. patching together solutions that simply fill a gap. At the end of the day, successful brands are defined not by resiliency but by their adaptability, and omnichannel is the best safeguard against the unpredictable nature of retail.”
Global omnichannel leaders
With benchmarking in mind, NewStore set out to identify the leaders in omnichannel around the world, and compiled results in the first-ever global edition of the Omnichannel Leadership Report. The software company recently conducted an audit of 275 retail brands across six markets including Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.K.
Leveraging third-party mystery shoppers, NewStore found the following brands were the leaders:
- Marks & Spencer (U.K.)
- Calzedonia (Italy)
- Moncler (Italy)
- Gucci (Italy)
- Cotton On (Australia)
For North America, there are lessons to be learned from other regions. NewStore found that Italy topped the U.S. in omnichannel maturity to achieve the #1 ranking, with a score of 40% overall adoption to 36% for the second-place America. Plus, many of the markets surveyed in this report were among the leaders.
North America remains the overall regional leader, but there are still international trends that provide lessons for brands here. Granof shared the following two areas where Europe shines:
Mobile shopping apps are becoming increasingly popular in Europe. In Spain and the UK, more than 40% of retailers have shopping apps, while only 33% of brands in the U.S. and Canada have one. There could be massive opportunities here, as retail sales from mobile apps are expected to grow 50% this year, Granof said.
Payment innovation. This is an area where the U.S. is lagging behind Europe. Only 76% of retailers accept contactless payments in the U.S., while the adoption rate sits at 96% in Europe. However, there could be room for the U.S. to make gains. Features like Tap to Pay on iPhone allow retailers to accept contactless payments without a terminal, providing room to catch up without the need for a hardware installation. It underscores how the latest technology can help brands leap ahead.