6 Things an eCommerce Business can do to be Sustainable

Krista Greenaway

Krista Greenaway

Ecommerce business can be more sustainable
photo credit: shutterstock.com

Ecommerce businesses can tackle sustainability, and become more profitable by doing so. From reviewing energy suppliers, their supply chain and who supplies the business it’s packaging, here are 6 solutions to make an ecommerce business sustainable. 

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Tackling sustainability is very doable and for many, profitable too

Ecommerce is typically viewed as a tool that serves greater convenience when purchasing products online. Which for some brands it is, rather than a business model and a business community in its own right. Regardless of how ecommerce partners are viewed though, and how much product people are buying from them, consumers are more aware than ever of how the purchases they make can have bigger consequences at our environments’ expense. 

We at  One Tribe believe ecommerce businesses are just as responsible for their sustainability practices as they are the everyday management. A viewpoint shared by over a third of consumers, who have expectations on those they buy from. And whilst many of our E-Commerce and digital partners have very different approaches to tackling sustainability, there are some common issues and solutions which are making a difference. From reviewing who supplies your energy, who’s in your supply chain and how your packaging is sourced, your business can make a difference and help tackle climate change. 

You can soon find yourself telling a strong story of sustainability to your customers, winning more sales whilst paying less to secure them.

Consumer using an Ecommerce platform
photo credit: unsplash

How can businesses begin that change?

1 ) Ethical Energy

By conducting an energy audit, you can determine which areas highlight the biggest contributors to energy waste. For most businesses, the changes begin with simple office practices such as turning off equipment when not in use and investing in energy-efficient lighting. For others, it will be a matter of looking at which energy suppliers can offer you renewable energy packages which slash ecommerce energy usage drastically.

Renewable energy has been slowly making a more prominent appearance in the ecologically friendly world. With more awareness from energy suppliers, businesses are finally starting to invest in energy schemes that are beneficial to their business while simultaneously saving the planet. It works by harvesting renewable resources such as solar, bio-gas and wind to replenish the energy supply. Typically when looking at energy suppliers you will be considering using these sources to offset carbon dioxide emissions and remain carbon neutral.

Image of Solar panels with wind turbines in the background with the sun shining beyond
photo credit: economictimes.indiatimes.com

2 ) Packaging

One of the most detrimental elements of the ecommerce cycle happens to be the packaging and delivery process. It is an unfortunate reality that because the packaging process is so far removed from the initial online ecommerce platform, waste from plastic packaging is out of sight and out of mind for most traders.

Of course. Some brands are on point, using only what is needed to protect goods going out, but others, well it can feel a bit like the adult version of ‘pass the parcel’ for the consumers. Online packages shrouded in layers of cardboard packaging, plastic wrap, and sealed with a nice delivery parcel bag for visually pleasing aesthetics. It is a given that the excessive layering of protective materials is contributing to unnecessary pile up in local landfills and our oceans.

“More than 2 billion trees are now logged every year for packaging alone.”

Even with increased demand in switching out plastic packaging for paper products, these apparently eco-friendly parcels still place massive demand on our supply chains. More than two billion trees are now logged every year for packaging alone. The focus has turned away from using toxic man-made materials to consuming the second-best option which happens to be our natural woodland. For many businesses that supply packaged goods, many state that they only use 100% recyclable packaging.

 However, we strongly advise that you dig a little deeper, asking for proof and second-guessing the language of the USP’s of each supplier. A few checks can quickly suss out if your suppliers are genuine, combating unnecessary deforestation caused by-product waste.

photo credit: theecobahn.com

3 ) Suppliers

We must also shed light on which suppliers meet sustainability needs and which do not. As previously mentioned, the supply chain is made up of many different roles. Reviewing your suppliers and working alongside them to make sure renewable methods are in place is one feat, but ask yourself ‘are all suppliers able to meet our ethical needs?’ 

Product packaging is one contributor to environmental pile-up but the actual supplying of these goods can cause major damage as well. With most cargo transported via multiple routes including land, sea, and air, the excessive shipping trails are a huge contributor when it comes to CO2 emissions. According to The Economist, suppliers’ operations are responsible for 65% to 95% of a company’s total emissions.

Companies need to delve deeper into their shipping policies structure within their supply chain, collaborating with their supply chain partners to adopt industry-wide sustainability standards. By doing this ecommerce businesses build a solid business relationship with suppliers who understand the expectations they are required to deliver. Literally.

4 ) Reviewing product sustainability

A company that has ethical values demonstrates this through the products they sell. There is no use in being partially committed to the cause. Being brand-aware means looking into the sustainability of the product you present to the consumer and ensuring that it is recyclable, reusable and not causing excessive production.

You will be surprised by how many products are now made from sustainable materials from reusable straws to kick the single-use plastic habit to shoes made from the radical pineapple leather. It is worth reviewing what types of materials are available to your business and implementing them into your ‘for sale’ items.

Close up of business people shaking hands over plans and drafts while discussing partnership on engineering project during meeting, copy space
photo credit: shutterstock.com

5) Create the right image

Everyone loves a hero – and a brand that saves the environment is a hero indeed. A more simple approach to being sustainable is by performing good sustainability practices inside and outside of work. Businesses are just at the forefront of enforcing ethical values, but if the mission is one that is shared across the company, you begin to build a community of people who share good ethical habits throughout their everyday lives.

Promoting sustainability via your ecommerce website, social media, and events will ultimately appeal to a wider following and remind you to remain focused on the reasons why it is important to construct a sustainable business structure around your brand journey.

6) Sustainability is strength in numbers

There is power in partnering with like-minded brands that offer the same level of commitment to combating environmental issues. With continuous reinforcement not only from consumers but fellow business partners, the practice of environmentally efficient trade slowly becomes second nature.

Other brands bring awareness to the issues at hand which you alone might not have considered. Their experiences will help your ecommerce business combat uproar from consumers when issues that have been unintentionally overlooked begin to surface. At Tribe, we deliberately offer partners lots of general content and news they can re-purpose regarding climate change, environmental news and conservation. This enables them to be able to publish news and comms, passing them off confidently as if they were their own. This helps prove to their customers they are committed to and understand how sustainable business connects to the causes they associate to.

Hands holding a plant
photo credit: istockphoto.com/Cecilie_Arcurs

Simple efforts for bigger results

A list of ethical objectives may seem like a daunting feat at first but really these are practices that should be ingrained into the initial foundations of any eCommerce business. Not only are these practices becoming a necessity but they also mean that incorporating these sustainable structures allows businesses time to focus their attention in the right places and reach out personally to their consumers.

Ultimately by amending the traditional e-commerce business model to a more sustainable one, businesses demonstrate they are contributing to a more sustainable planet with pride and purpose. And use our 20 step sustainability checklist which was made to help you easily transition into a sustainable eCommerce business. 

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