Recent consumer trends suggest that consumers are adopting a raft of different measures to shop and live more sustainably. They increasingly factor environmental issues and concerns into their purchasing decisions. The changing landscape of consumer buying behaviour reveals the growing influence of sustainability and how it has gone from gaining bonus points to becoming important stakes in ecommerce.
The word "sustainable" has become more than just a buzzword. While a large market does understand the significance of this move, many fail to understand its place in today's world.
We live in a world where everything is super-fast and super-efficient. A few clicks on your phone, and a shipment reaches your doorstep the same day. The eCommerce boom was a delight to the users; life was never this convenient.
And soon, like most significant changes, this too was ridden with flaws—both economic and environmental. Single-use plastic and tons of recyclable waste filled the oceans. Excessive shipping and logistics have also created a massive impact on climate change.
But all is not lost; there are still many brands that seek sustainability in eCommerce. And here's all you need to know about it.
The aim of sustainable practices is to reduce the impact on the environment. Such efforts will lessen the reckless deployment of natural resources, provide back to the ecosystem, and help balance the surroundings. In layperson's terms, being mindful of the environment in all business practices.
The primary challenge for most companies is balancing sustainability in eCommerce without losing profitably. The alternatives that can cause harm to nature are usually cheaper and easily accessible.
However, non-eco-friendly practices can also influence consumer behavior. The eCommerce market is responsible for a larger carbon footprint than the cumulative emission from driving vehicles. There are few laws to stop such practices, which comes down to making a conscious choice.
But, how does this help your brand? Let's have a look.
By embracing sustainability in eCommerce, you set your brand apart from most who fail to address the issue. This change brings a lot of eyeballs to your brand as the one who both delivers good products and works towards a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, some form of sustainable changes can prove cost-effective to the company in the long run. For example, suppose your eCommerce business switches to an electric fleet, and these vehicles cost less to run and win subsidies from governments worldwide.
It also adds a feather to your corporate social responsibility cap, which is imperative to influence consumer behavior towards your brand too. Such a business also attracts a better workforce and sets a domino effect for positive change in the whole industry.
Green purchase(s), also called Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP), is a product and service procurement that ensures better health for consumers and the environment. Many consumers today are making a shift to this way of life.
For instance, a survey of over sixty-thousand consumers from three continents found that 80% of users find sustainability in eCommerce a need of the hour. Close to 77% of these users also said that packaging that contains too much plastic is repelling as a buyer.
Especially among millennials, more than 75% of those involved in the survey found themself actively seeking and switching to sustainable habits. Additionally, between 2013-18, around 50% of the growth in the packed-goods segment came from sustainable practices.
These statistics prove that the world is moving to a greener outlook and such changes influence consumer behavior towards any eCommerce business.
And before we jump into how this is possible for your brand, here is another reason you should consider a green purchase audience.
The most prominent players in the e-commerce market are making a conscious move towards sustainability, which implies that it will soon become a norm. A giant like Amazon has claimed to become carbon neutral by 2040. Their CEO, Jeff Bezos, has personally contributed $10 billion towards projects that fight climate change.
A fast-fashion label like Zara, infamous for its disregard towards sustainability in eCommerce, is also moving to organic and recycling practices.
The above pointers further enforce how a green image can influence consumer behavior. So, here is how your brand can make a greener impact.
Better Supply Chain Optimization
One of the most significant contributions to the carbon footprint from eCommerce is the shipping and logistics front. Billions of packages are moved around from across the globe, adding to the emissions. Last-mile delivery alone has led to a massive rise in pollution in residential hubs.
An optimized supply chain, for starters, will reduce the number of returns to the warehouse. This alone can help cut down a large volume of unwanted shipping. Having recyclable packaging and eco-friendly shipping labels also helps the cause significantly.
It's a fact that recycled cardboard consumes almost 75% less energy to create than a new box. Most communities worldwide have recyclable pickups from their homes, making it easier to discard these boxes.
Most of us have received small packages in huge boxes. These cartons are filled with space-filling material to ensure the integrity of the product. All of this adds to unwanted waste and impacts consumer behavior towards your brand.
Brands must make a conscious effort to tailor-make packaging to use minimal fillers. Have various box sizes and shipping containers to allow for lower waste collection. This additional packaging does not just contribute to the garbage but also the shipping costs.
Caution to Energy Consumption
Outside of shipping and packaging, the need for sustainability in eCommerce can also influence day-to-day business. For example, having energy-efficient appliances and machines is a perfect starting point.
Ensure your warehouse, shops, and factories are all run on as much clean energy as possible. Using solar power, natural light, and other forms of renewable resources can help bring down a bulk of emissions and expenses.
Even a small change such as changing the bulbs to low energy lights or running logistics using an automated route planner can create a ripple effect of change.
Start by running an audit of your surroundings to create a list of pain points you can address. Start small and make an incremental change towards a more sustainable output each month.
Including Products That Support Sustainability
When addressing sustainability in eCommerce, we cannot ignore the role of the products themselves. Many apparel brands have taken a strict stance towards this model and only sell goods made with sustainable practices.
A company in the US called 4Ocean has gone a step further and made the crux of their business sustainability. Each bracelet bought on the website is made from environmentally safe materials. Each green purchase also contributes to a fund later used to clean the oceans.
Not all online businesses need a plan as elaborate as cleaning the ocean, but having a champion cause attached to your brand can also attract a user base that feels connected to your endeavor.
Reselling and Refurbishing Practices
Reselling or refurbishing older products can reduce waste collection by a significant margin. Some fast-fashion brands provide discounts to users in return for a bag of old clothes, and this material is either refurbished to a different market or reused.
Many electronic brands are also opening up their products for service to help prolong their life. For example, Apple iPhones have recently allowed users to get a battery replacement after a few years. This will reduce the e-waste collected from discarded phones. Some manufacturers also provide exchanges to recycle old parts.
Find The Right Partners
Lastly, your business cannot survive alone without the support of your vendors, stakeholders, and partners. For example, your clothing line might be fully organic and eco-friendly; but it also needs a shipping supplier who shares the same beliefs.
The same is true for your distribution partners, delivery partners, vendors, manufacturers, etc.
Merely adopting a few practices will not help tip the scale in favor of sustainability in eCommerce. Each online brand must make this their ideology and help promote it to the rest of their industry.
These are brands that are more than willing to admit to their ways of eco-friendly business. Add this to your company page, write a small section explaining what steps are taken for a greener future.
In the words of Tolstoy, "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." Start with small changes each month; not everything is possible in one swift move. Even a giant like Amazon has a 20-year plan, so having a roadmap in mind makes all the difference.