Sustainable E-commerce: A Complete Guide on How to Start a Sustainable Online Business

Sustainable E-commerce A Complete Guide on How to Start a Sustainable Online Business

Buying items while sitting on your sofa, checking hundreds of products on your fingers, and comparing prices easily, are all such benefits you get with the present e-commerce. E-commerce is no exception for its flaws – particularly flaws related to the environmental aspects.

Sustainability isn’t a new buzzword but a practice which is essential to protect our planet. From manufacturing & textiles to farming, sustainability is required everywhere and e-commerce is no exception. In e-commerce, the sustainability concept is present in every phase from business models to packaging and it will play a predominant role in the upcoming years.

As per a recent survey conducted in various parts of the world among over 6,000 respondents, 80% of the participants felt that it was “important or extremely important” for companies to design environmentally conscious products. E-commerce retailers should understand the fact that sustainability is the future and they should court this changing shopping behaviour & create a positive impact by making their business more sustainable. To help you with this, we will cover all the aspects of sustainability in e-commerce in this article.

What is the Sustainable E-commerce?

Sustainable e-commerce refers to the practices in online purchasing and selling that don’t degrade the natural environment while ensuring profit and supporting social systems (communities and employees). Sustainable e-commerce meets market demands while minimizing the climate change caused by human activities and other environmental issues. It serves the current generation’s needs without jeopardizing the needs of future generations. Initiatives such as minimizing waste, reducing carbon footprint, and practicing fair trade are the parts of sustainable e-commerce. 

With the demand for online goods and services increasing exponentially, the attention to sustainability achievements has sharpened for this industry.

It is estimated that e-commerce sales will exceed the valuation of $1.3 trillion by 2025. With such growth, it is essential to look for the underlying practices and whether they are sustainable or not. By 2030, the delivery vehicles on the road will grow by 36% in the top 100 cities globally, and the emissions will increase by 32%.

Why E-commerce Businesses Should Care About Sustainability?

In today’s time, not only scientists are concerned about sustainability, but the common consumers as well. They have concerns for the future of our planet, the manufacturing process, and the consumption patterns. After the industrial revolution, companies are highly accountable for the short-term trajectory of climate change; thus it becomes more practical and moral to think about sustainability. Here are a few reasons why businesses should adopt sustainable e-commerce practices:

1. Business Success:

It is a common myth among entrepreneurs and executives that adopting sustainable practices will deplete their profits and overall growth. But the changes in your practices for a sustainable future can be modest or larger. They shouldn’t have short-sightedness to overlook future growth.

Utilizing renewable energy sources, electric motors and vehicles, and other operations will save both money and time. These positive steps will give you better yields in the longer run. To incorporate sustainability into your business, you must interact with sustainable suppliers and build relationships with like-minded businesses. Keep in mind that customers will perform studies in this area. In general, achieving sustainability is a big task.

2. Increase Employee Retention Rate:

Always remember, people not only prefer to buy from sustainable businesses but they also want to work with enterprises that are connected with their values. Thus, employers should know the importance of sustainability for employee satisfaction. The employees will tend to stay for a prolonged period with your company if they feel their work is creating an impact in the world around them.

No good person will prefer to work with a company that only thinks about the profit over people and the environment. Adopting sustainability will benefit your customers as well as the hiring, tracking, and employee retention of your staff.

3. Improves Brand Reputation:

The feather of sustainability on the brand’s hat can help in succeeding in the competitive environment. Which brand do you think would be a buyer’s choice among two brands offering identical items? The one which is more inclined towards environment and sustainability practices. 

As per a study, more than 74% of the buyers in Canada, consider sustainability an essential aspect while making purchases. Using an ecologically friendly strategy gives you the chance to build a positive reputation in the eyes of your clients and provide them with a reason to spend money.

Every stage of your business should be run in a sustainable manner to reinforce your environmental strategy and provide you with an advantage over your rivals.

4. Planet gets benefitted:

Currently, it is almost impossible to alter or undo the adjustments that have been caused to the atmosphere, biosphere, ocean, and frozen places. It would also be confronting to consider all human activities that resulted in ecosystem alterations.

Certain elements of the climate are changing at unprecedented rates making it more necessary than ever to put efforts into stopping climate change. There are many NGOs that are working on climate change and make the future more sustainable.

One such organization is the Sustainable Business Network which discusses sustainable strategies with companies to adopt sustainable waste, nature, and climate solutions. It provides technologies and information to help new people recognize the concerns, dangers, and available options for mitigating the harmful effects of climate change.

5. Law & Legislation:

The US and EU governments have set a mission or objective for 2030 of decreasing carbon emissions by at least 55%. The change will not happen immediately on a larger scale and it would be a continuous process to pursue such objectives. 

Several governments are also giving tax benefits for eco-friendly initiatives like using Rooftop solar panels, biofuel, or wind turbines may be eligible for an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 26% corporate tax credit. There can be other tax benefits as well for home-based firms like rebates, personal tax credits, etc.

6. Investor Demand:

As per the survey conducted by EY Global Institutional Investor in 2021, 74% of the investors are considering divesting from companies that are lacking sustainable practices in their operations, and 90% have mentioned that they will give utmost attention performance of the company on key environmental and social factor while making investment decisions.

7. Reduce Business Costs:

A sustainability strategy will cut down on waste and energy use by increasing efficiency. According to McKinsey, these efficiency gains will increase operational earnings by up to 60%. A sustainable business model also addresses the impact of regulation, assisting firms in staying ahead of the compliance curve.

How to achieve Sustainable Practices in your E-commerce?

Now that you know the direct and indirect benefits of Sustainable E-commerce, you must want a detailed picture of how to achieve sustainability in your online business. Let’s look at the 13 ways by which you can make your e-commerce more sustainable. It may be not possible for you to adopt every way but we are confident that you would be able to find at least a few that make sense.

1. Reduce Wastage of Energy and Find Alternatives:

Increasing the efficiency of energy in operations is the first way to reduce the carbon footprint and operational costs. A fundamental example would be the usage of LED lightning which is energy-efficient and has higher light energy. Similarly, you can put the machines to rest when are not working and use automatic sensors to do the same.

Another option is to opt for renewable or infinite sources of energy like Solar. This is a great way to lessen your reliance on fossil fuels, and you might be able to take advantage of government incentives like tax credits or rebates.

2. Add products that promote sustainability:

Another fantastic strategy to make your e-commerce business more sustainable is to add products that assist consumers in living a more sustainable lifestyle. 

Begin by looking at goods that help people save energy, such as low-flow showerheads, light dimmers, and energy-efficient appliances. You can also look for products manufactured from environmentally friendly materials like bamboo, hemp, and organic cotton.

E-commerce is also on the rise, so organic foods, eco-friendly cleaning products, and natural-ingredient personal care items may complement your current product offers.

3. Reduce Emissions from Delivery of Goods:

As per the report by Climate Portal at MIT, nearly 8% of the global greenhouse gas emissions are due to freight cargo, and trucks are primary polluters. To eliminate emissions in business activities, consider sourcing and shipping locally from regional suppliers. It will also boost the local businesses and economy.

To further reduce emissions by deliveries, the deliveries should be consolidated at a circular route which can reduce emissions by 90%. In addition, bill out logistic networks that transport goods using metropolitan fulfilment centres for direct-to-home deliveries. If all cars are converted to more efficient versions, urban fulfilment facilities close to the consumer – rather than centres outside the metropolitan core – can save 0.5Gt/year.

However, the ultimate goal should be to use electric vehicles in your logistics. They will not just completely cut greenhouse gas emissions, but also eliminate dependency on fossil fuels and are also highly economical.

4. Reduce the Delivery Returns:

Returns in delivery are estimated to amount to 5 billion pounds of waste. When an item is returned by the customer, it goes through a reverse transportation chain, doubling emissions. A sustainable returns company Optoro estimated that these returns release 15 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

It is imperative to work on the returns policy if you want to promote sustainability in your business. You want to make it obvious to your customers what the environmental ramifications of limitless shopping returns are. You could even go so far as to offer your consumers the option to waive their return choice in exchange for a discount.

5. Adopt Sustainable Packaging:

Today’s customers have a high concern for the environment. They may not be able to see your operations, but can clearly experience the packaging. Thus, you must use biodegradable products in place of plastics or foams like polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) plastics.

The size of the packaging is also important. There should be no excessive packaging material and it should be of optimal size. It is better to use cardboard packaging instead of polyethene material.

You can also implement a packaging return system. For example, PureWaste, an online apparel retailer, established its RePack initiative, which is a reusable and returnable delivery packing method. When compared to single-use packaging solutions, this simple solution is claimed to cut trash and CO2 emissions by 80%.

6. Reduce Paper Usage:

Do you know that the small invoices or receipts or bills of products in the US consume 10 million trees and 1 billion gallons of water annually? Thus, making this small change will have a huge impact on the environment. This change will also get support from your customers too as 89% have stated that they would like to get digital receipts instead of paper receipts for their orders.

7. Provide durable goods to reduce repetitive consumption:

Reducing consumption is a primary way to achieve sustainability. To accomplish this, you should concentrate on selling long-lasting goods. You can also consider providing repair services or collaborating with local firms to provide repair services for your items. This will not only extend the life of the products you sell, but it will also reduce the requirement for new items to be manufactured and delivered, lowering your environmental impact.

Are Businesses Actually Following Sustainable Practices? Yes, They Are!

Here are a few examples of the businesses of various industries which have adopted multiple sustainability practices and are giving their share to protect the environment.

Biome is an Australia-based well-being and lifestyle brand having expertise in providing eco-friendly and sustainable products to its customers. The company provide the service of recycling and reusing its items to its customers. The customers just have to drop their used items to their stores and they recycle for free of cost. Some of the primary products of the company are natural skincare, reusable water bottles, eco-friendly cleaning products, and biodegradable cleaning tools. These products are free from all known toxins, cruelty-free and are made from natural fibres and long-lasting.

Are you among those who throw their rotten fruits and vegetables into the dustbin every week? If yes, then meet Swag, a patented special bag that keeps your groceries crisp, healthy and eatable for weeks (not days). The company aims to keep your groceries fresh for 2 weeks or more, and it is scientifically proven. These bags are also made from 100% compostable, toxic-free, and fair-trade cotton.

What makes this coffee special? Isn’t it like any other coffee brand? Well, it is kind because each bean of this Kind Coffee is natural, chemical free, fairly traded, shade grown, certified organic, and Swiss water decaffeinated. Ultimately, it is good for you as well as the environment.

It dynamically supports the local communities and promotes sustainability in the environment.

Honeybee wraps offer a completely natural way to keep your food fresh for a long time and eliminate the usage of plastic. These wraps are made of beeswax which are reusable multiple times. You just need to use the warmth of your hands to mold and shape your honeybee wrap onto food and utensils. Wrapping your fruits and veggies with beeswax can seal in the freshness and keep them fresher for longer.

The company aims to reduce the plastic waste and the emissions generated from the production of single-use plastic wrap.

U-Konserve aims to create products that people can use to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle. They offer a variety of products which are made from eco-friendly materials such as glass, stainless steel, and silicone. This e-commerce company not only sells reusable products but also encourages users to think about the environmental impact of their purchases and to replace plastic with more sustainable alternatives.

This Australian-based company has expertise in providing natural, vegan, and cruelty-free products. It offers a plethora of products such as skincare, body care, makeup, food and drink, and lifestyle products.

This e-commerce company is dedicated to sustainability in all aspects of its operations. Their whole product line is natural and vegan, and they are constantly looking for ways to lessen their environmental effects, such as using eco-friendly packaging and plant-based shipping materials.

This ink-providing company takes empty printer cartridges, crushes them, and repurposes the plastic into 100% recyclable ink. It is a highly creative and sustainable way. The company provides a wide range of colours and it can be used for any form of art. It can print everything and prevent the materials from going into a landfill.

Wrapping Up:

In this article, we have gone through all the aspects of sustainability in the e-commerce industry. Well, how to go for sustainability is your choice, but how to develop an e-commerce store is your responsibility. We Ceymox, provide the best e-commerce development services in a sustainable way. Our expert team has expertise in developing e-commerce stores from scratch with advanced features, and functionalities.

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