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5 ways to incorporate sustainability into your ecommerce strategy

Go Global Ecommerce's Simone De Ruosi shares sustainable practices, from brand to shipping.

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Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

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.

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