Ecommerce is constantly evolving and it can be difficult for brands in the space to keep up with each new trend. One trend that is here to stay? Sustainability.
Consumers want sustainable options, in fact, 32% of US consumers prioritize companies that are actively reducing their impact on the environment, and 88% of consumers want brands that will help them be more sustainable. With the ecommerce industry growing, so does the demand for sustainability. Here are the top five sustainability trends that ecommerce brands should be looking to incorporate.
Each part of the ecommerce supply chain emits carbon in one form or another, all of which contributes to climate change. While the ideal solution might be to stop or completely alter all carbon-emitting activities, it’s certainly not the realistic one.
Brands should be working to reduce their overall carbon footprint, and where they can’t reduce, or can’t reduce any more, they can leverage carbon offsetting. Carbon offsetting takes place by way of supporting projects that work to reduce or remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere.
EcoCart works with brands to determine their carbon footprint from various sources, like manufacturing or shipping their products, and then easily offsets by donating to a verified carbon offsetting program that supports initiatives like protecting forests, building wind farms, or providing water purifiers to families in need.
Ability to return packaging for reuse
Packaging is a huge contributor to pollution and climate change. Ecommerce packaging in the US alone uses the equivalent of 1 billion trees a year for cardboard. This is just the packaging that your orders ship in, never mind the packaging of the actual product.
There are a few ways to combat the dilemma of packaging. First look for ways to reduce packaging overall, do you really need to add those marketing inserts? Does each product actually need to be in its own poly bag? By asking these questions you can work to reduce the packaging you already have.
What you can’t reduce, look for more sustainable options to switch to. This could be using boxes made from recycled materials, compostable bags, paper tape instead of plastic, or biodegradable packing peanuts, just to name a few options.
Another option is to develop a program where your customers can return their packaging for reuse. This could fall into a recycling program where you take over the disposal of your products once your customers no longer can use them.
Products using upcycled or recycled materials
What your products are made of matters a lot when it comes to sustainability and appealing to sustainably-minded consumers. In addition to pleasing your customers, and the planet, products made from recycled materials can help lower your raw materials costs by reducing your dependency on commodity pricing.
There are a variety of ways to use recycled plastics. For textiles and clothing, polyester fleece clothing and polyester filling can be made from recycled PET bottles (e.g. soda and water bottles). Plastic is just one material that is able to be recycled and used again. Recycled glass can be used in container manufacturing—remelting glass to make new glass products is highly efficient with no loss of quality or physical properties. Plus, remelting the glass offers the best environmental benefits for recycling glass.
Green last-mile delivery options
Last-mile delivery growth will increase carbon emissions by 30% by 2030. Focusing on making your last-mile deliveries more eco-friendly will be a win for everyone. One analysis found that using local fulfillment centers can provide a significant reduction in carbon emissions from last-mile delivery, between 17 and 26% through 2025.
Shoe brand Thousand Fell even used bike messengers to deliver their sustainable shoes to customers in NYC—as an added bonus the buyer receives their shoes same-day. For those who can’t use bike messengers, carbon offsetting with EcoCart can also be leveraged here to mitigate the emissions produced from last-mile delivery.
Clean energy plants for manufacturing
When looking for a sustainable and ethical manufacturer, it helps to come up with a list of standards you want to evaluate them on. This could look something like this:
- Their approach to sourcing raw materials
- Commitment to using clean energy
- If and how they track their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
- Do they have recycling and waste management programs in place at the facilities?
Once you define what’s important to you, you can start looking at manufacturers and measuring where they stand in comparison to your sustainability goals.
There are also different certifications you can look at to guide you to a sustainable manufacturer. B Lab certification verifies “social and environmental performance,” and TRUE Zero Waste credentials identify a company’s environmentally responsible waste diversion initiatives. LEED is another certification meant specifically for buildings that have a sustainable design or other features. A list of more green credentials can be found here.
Trends come and go, but sustainability is forever. By focusing on implementing more sustainable practices into your ecommerce brand, you can be sure to keep up with the times. This will not only benefit the planet, but will also help you capture new audiences, retain existing ones, and help propel growth.
Peter Twomey is the co-founder and COO at EcoCart.Peter's professional passion is building software solutions that solve problems he experienced-first hand in his time as an entrepreneur. In his free time, you can find Peter skateboarding around San Francisco and cleaning up the beach with his dog Butters.