In this article, we explain what sustainability is and why online stores need to incorporate it into their business models. The
What Is Sustainability?
Sustainability focuses on creating social and economic systems that benefit all life, including those currently living and future generations. Sustainable practices aim to support ecological, human, and economic vitality.
Here are some sustainability principles businesses should follow:
- Control and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, water consumption, and waste production;
- Create reasonable working conditions for employees and pay adequate wages on time;
- Strive to create new jobs.
In this article, we will focus on the first principle, the one most focused on environmental protection. Let’s find out how you can make your own online store environmentally friendly and compliant with sustainable practices.
Why Some Online Stores Aren’t
Shopping online is fast and convenient. Unfortunately, this convenience often comes at the expense of the environment. For example, Amazon emits 44.4 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per year while transporting orders. That’s more emissions than from the countries of Sweden or New Zealand! In fact, more than half of the world’s solid waste comes from packaging.
The main ways ecommerce affects the environment are:
- Shipping and return of products. Shipping leads to a huge amount of carbon dioxide emissions.
- Excessive packaging. When small items are delivered in huge boxes, or a single order is delivered in multiple packages, that leads to unnecessary waste.
How to Make Your Online Store More
The sustainability issue in ecommerce is closely related to brand values. A company’s commitment to environmental preservation attracts loyal customers who share those values. The main challenge is to combine sustainability with profitability.
So how can a business owner make online shopping in their store more sustainable, while making a profit? Here are a few ways to start:
Eco-Friendly Delivery Options
Some carriers are increasingly focused on
Give Up Plastic Packaging Whenever Possible
For example, Zara has completely abandoned plastic in favor of paper. It has also launched a cosmetics collection in recyclable and
Use Refillable Packaging
Here’s how it works: a customer buys a product in refillable packaging, say a bottle or a jar. When they run out of the product, they buy a refill (usually at a discounted price) and replenish the bottle or jar with that refill. This reduces waste and promotes reusing goods, the often ignored sides of the sustainability triangle. Online stores like Bite have implemented a program that reuses packing and ultimately reduces waste.
Keep Returned Items
Products returned to the seller are often sent to a landfill. In the
Give Up Free Returns
Online stores often offer free returns. Shoppers take advantage of that and order more than they planned. If there is no free returns option, customers will be more thoughtful and responsible when shopping online.
Don’t Use Large Packaging for Small Products
Online stores often buy
Write Detailed Product Descriptions
Detailed descriptions and
Ship Orders in Bundles
Deliver Orders on the First Try
Deliver orders when a customer is guaranteed to be home, or arrange a pickup option. You can also ask customers to enter a backup address in case they are not at home when their package arrives (for example, an address of their neighbor who’s always at home). This helps reduce the carbon output from having to drive to the house over and over again to deliver the customer’s package.
Some examples are: recycled products, items made from natural and renewable materials (such as natural fibers, cork, clay, or flowers), previously owned clothes, or cosmetics made of natural products. All of these are popular with
Greenwashing is when a business uses marketing to deceive customers into believing that a brand’s products and policies are
Here’s an example of greenwashing: in the 1980s, the oil company Chevron launched the People Do program with the message that it was committed to leaving nature untouched. At the same time, the company was illegally dumping waste in wildlife habitats.
Let customers know how shopping in your store affects the environment. Consumers are more
It can be hard to switch to being
Companies that become more sustainable are also more likely to make a profit. More and more shoppers care about the environment, and the trend of choosing