Sustainable Ecommerce | Guide for Online Brands

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Sustainable eCommerce is on the rise. 44% of consumers are more likely to buy from a sustainable brand. Businesses are listening to statistics like these and are adapting their practices to become more eco-friendly. 

This is why the sustainable eCommerce market is projected to reach more than 40.75 billion by 2030.

How can your eCommerce company switch to an environmentally friendly strategy? From the products you sell to your shipping method, there are various ways to adopt more sustainable business practices.

But to offer these benefits while pricing your items competitively and making your bottom line is a struggle that many sellers face.

So, is eCommerce sustainable? It can be. This guide will explain sustainable eCommerce, why it’s important, and how businesses can adopt eco-friendly initiatives. Plus, we will name some brands that are taking sustainability in the right direction.


What is Sustainable eCommerce?


Sustainable eCommerce is a strategy where businesses adopt socially responsible and green practices. With this tactic, eCommerce companies can meet market demands while reducing their environmental impact.

There are many ways that the eCommerce industry contributes to industrial pollution and climate change. For instance, transporting products causes significant carbon emissions, and product packaging ends up in landfills and the ocean.

But that doesn’t mean eCommerce is a lost cause for sustainability. There are many ways brands can reduce energy consumption, create a sustainable supply chain in eCommerce, offset carbon emissions, and give back to the planet. 

We will explain these tactics below. But first, what do your consumers think of sustainable brands?

sustainable ecommerce packaging
sustainable ecommerce packaging

Why are More Consumers Supporting Sustainable eCommerce Brands?


There’s more demand for sustainable eCommerce solutions. Items marketed as eco-friendly grew 2.7x faster than those that aren’t. Plus, 78% of consumers feel sustainability is important, and 55% are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly brands.

These statistics prove that customers are willing to change their buying habits to be more sustainable. Therefore, brands should take advantage of this opportunity.

Most businesses will have to change their business practices to meet these consumer demands. By adopting the changes we will list next, you appeal to ethical buyers and establish yourself as a competitive business.


How to Make eCommerce More Sustainable


Many eCommerce businesses are adopting sustainable practices. While some are corporate monoliths, most of them are small-to-medium-sized businesses:

  • L’Oreal
  • 100% Pure
  • Dr. Bronner’s
  • The Honest Kitchen
  • Ethical Bean
  • PlanetBox
  • Ecostore
  • Lousy Ink
  • Avocado Green Mattress

There are many ways that eCommerce companies can develop sustainable initiatives. While administering all these best practices may not happen immediately, stores can use this as a blueprint for becoming a more sustainable eCommerce business.


Sell Sustainable Products


Selling eco-friendly products is one of the easiest first steps toward becoming a sustainable eCommerce business. Many environmentally-friendly items exist in all industries, such as:

  • Light dimmers
  • Low-flow shower heads
  • Items made from sustainable materials (such as hemp and bamboo)
  • Eco-friendly cleaning products
  • Personal care items made with recyclable packaging

When selling eco-friendly products, use them to complement the inventory you have in stock. Once the sustainable products gain more traction, you can slowly start replacing them with your current inventory. 


Use Less Energy


There are many energy alternatives that sustainable eCommerce businesses can use at every stage of the supply chain. Many low-carbon energy alternatives, such as solar, wind, and hydro, can power your warehouse. All these energy sources are natural resources and are renewable.

Businesses can also take advantage of technology to save energy. Some sensors automatically turn off the lights when no one is in your warehouse. Businesses can use the Internet of Things (IoT) to monitor eCommerce processes, such as inventory management. This reduces paper and waste.

sustainable supply chain in ecommerce
sustainable supply chain in ecommerce

Give Back to the Environment


Sustainable eCommerce businesses can partner with different eco-friendly non-profits. There are many ways to benefit environmental charities. 

Businesses often donate a portion of their revenue to these organizations. Since 75% of small businesses annually donate 6% of their earnings, this strategy will make you competitive. 

They can also offer consumers to donate during checkout. Remember that consumers are more than likely to donate by rounding up to the nearest dollar rather than asking for a flat-rate donation.

Most environmental charities have a focus in mind. For example, conserving natural resources (like the rainforest) or planting more trees. Some also operate in communities, such as saving marine ecosystems in specific areas.


Avoid Waste in Your Packaging


Did you know that Amazon’s plastic waste increased by 18%? Sustainable eCommerce businesses use different types of waste, most of which occur in the packaging and shipping phases. 

When customers return packages, there’s more waste. Plus, many businesses include inserts in their packages, such as promotional literature and stickers, and other materials. This only adds more materials to landfills.

Businesses can avoid this waste by using sustainable eCommerce packaging materials. Examples include biodegradable materials and recyclable boxes and inserts, such as cardboard.

Many businesses may already implement these materials but use non-recyclable items without realizing it. Tape is the perfect example; since most tape is made of plastic, it can’t be recycled with normal packaging. Businesses can switch to water-activated tape and kraft paper tape as recyclable alternatives.


Reduce Emissions in Delivery


Since many shipping vehicles increase carbon emissions in the atmosphere, businesses can opt for carbon-neutral delivery services for sustainable eCommerce fulfillment. These vehicles use electric or hydrogen-fueled energy or a hybrid of electric and gas.


Resell Used Merchandise


Many businesses don’t accept returns on used merchandise. That’s because there’s no way of knowing the item is safe to resell. But if you tell a customer you won’t take back their used item, there’s a good chance they will throw it out.

Fortunately, buyers always look for a deal, and these consumers are more willing to buy used merchandise. Electronic companies can also refurbish used pieces and resell them cheaper, for instance.

Note that it’s best to avoid this policy if you sell food or cosmetics. Keep this centered on clothing and accessories. 

Worst come to worst, you can partner with community organizations or a local charity to donate these items. This way, you’re reducing waste and giving back to your community.

Related content: Amazon Warehouse Return Policy


Incentivize a Recycling Policy


More organizations–and even countries–are paying people to recycle. Take the Bower App as an example. This app offers a financial reward to those who recycle correctly.

You can offer similar incentives for recycling your packaging. For example, your buyers can return their boxes, shipping materials, and product packaging (shipping label included) to receive a percentage off their next order. Plus, you can reuse all the packaging they send back. 


Revise Your Return Policy


Did you know returned inventory creates 9.6 billion pounds of landfill waste annually? Sending and returning items results in more packaging used,with a chunk of the material ending in a landfill.

And don’t forget about the items. Many brands throw away used inventory. Let’s take the fashion industry as an example. Major brands such as Shein and Zara don’t restock used and returned items–they end up in the trash.

While many consumers won’t favor a stricter return policy, many brands are jumping ship and limiting what can be returned and how to proceed.

Your brand can limit returns by offering detailed size guides, AR-powered features, and product recommendation technology.

Related content: ‘Frequently Returned’ Warning


Offer Repair Services


Another reason why consumers return items is they stopped working. Instead of accepting the return, offer a repair service. Some eCommerce businesses partner with local repair shops to prevent your consumers from shipping the product.


Give Back With Sustainable eCommerce


More consumers are demanding eco-friendly solutions from online stores. Fortunately, developing a sustainable eCommerce solution isn’t difficult or expensive. 

You can easily adopt green practices, such as giving back to the environment and using sustainable packaging materials. If you have the capital, sell eco-friendly products and replace them with your existing inventory.

It can be difficult to implement sustainability practices while focusing on business growth. Leave certain tasks, such as eCommerce marketing, to the experts while you lower your carbon footprint. If you want to achieve eCommerce business success, look at our services.



Stephanie Jensen
Stephanie Jensen

Stephanie Jensen has been writing e-commerce content for seven years, and her copy has helped numerous stores rank on Amazon. Follow her on LinkedIn for more insight into freelance writing and creating high-quality content.

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