Ecommerce has seen tremendous growth over the last few years, registering a 7.4% growth in the second quarter of 2022.
While this is good news for store owners, it also raises a growing issue: How can we reduce the carbon footprint of shipping valuable cargo? Research shows that more than 50% of consumers are willing to pay more for products/services from companies committed to “positive social and environmental impact.”
Here are some ways to make your shipping practices more sustainable—from simple changes to long-term investments.
Switch to Eco-friendly Packaging Material
Plastic packaging such as bubble wrap and plastic bags contribute significantly to retail packaging waste. Plastics can take 1000s of years to biodegrade when they end up in landfills and oceans. Although they populate the shipping industry, less than 14% of over 80million tons of plastic packaging produced globally is recycled.
While it’s impossible to eliminate packaging, there are some sustainable, eco-friendly choices you can adapt and incorporate into your supply chain, and that includes:
- Using bioplastics made from plant-based materials such as corn starch and wheat straw
- Using corrugated bubble wrap made from 100% recycled cardboard
- Avoiding non-recyclable plastic when packing orders
- Use compostable mailers bags to ship your orders
As you pick these packages, ensure they’re of the highest quality. They should reflect your company’s values and offer the client a great unboxing experience. They should also be able to protect your product from damage to minimize returns.
Adapt the ships-in-own-container (SIOC) Strategy
Most products already come in boxes and containers. The SIOC strategy lets you avoid adding unnecessary packaging to ship customers’ orders. Instead, you simply ship items in their actual packaging.
The SIOC technique also allows you to pack orders more efficiently and avoid packing orders in boxes too big for the product inside. You’ll prevent packaging material waste, and ship more products as little space is required. Ultimately, this strategy is more environmentally sustainable and also economical for both your and your customers.
However, the feasibility of this strategy depends on the type of products you sell—fragile items will require extra containers. Don’t ship fragile items without special packaging, as that will lead to increased customer returns, adversely affecting your sustainability goals.
Offset Your Carbon Footprint (and Allow Customers to Offset theirs too at checkout)
While you may want to achieve zero carbon footprint and be as sustainable as you possibly could, the technology to completely go green doesn’t exist yet. The second best step you could take is offsetting your carbon footprint.
Carbon offsetting entails compensating for your store’s emissions by supporting high-impact climate projects like protecting forests. This can also be achieved at a small scale by simple practices like planting trees, contributing a portion of your profit to environment protection charities, and reducing reliance on nonrenewable energy.
Your customers are also aware of their carbon footprint and could jump on the opportunity to play their part in ensuring sustainable shipping. The simplest way to achieve this is by offering them the option to purchase carbon offsets at checkout, which can be as low as $1. The environmentally conscious shoppers will be happy to participate in such noble goals.
To achieve this, you’ll have to partner with a carbon offsetting solution and integrate it with your eCommerce store. Be careful and only select the ones that are internationally certified.
Electrify Your Last Mile Delivery
The last mile delivery is vital in your supply chain. By partnering with shipping and fulfillment partners who share your goals of helping the environment by ensuring sustainable shipping, you can significantly cut carbon emissions.
All the major carriers have environmentally-conscious solutions you can use that ensure the transportation means used to complete your shipping is clean. From FedEx to USPS, they’re all involved in programs designed to reduce the effects shipping has on the environment.
Carriers have begun to assume greater responsibility for e-commerce sustainability by utilizing greener modes of transportation for deliveries, such as electric cars and e-bikes. They’re also adopting other efficiency practices, like solar power generation, recyclable shipping supplies, etc.
Another technique to pick up is adopting paperless invoices when delivering your products to consumers. Most credit cards that let you manage your cash and debt will offer you this service so that you can bill your customers efficiently. When in the market for such a service, look for a business credit card with an APR of less than 20%.
Develop Ways to Reduce Customer Returns
While free returns can be a great way to entice customers doubtful about making a purchase, it’s not necessarily the best practice for the environment. The back-and-forth shipping leaves a trail of emissions that doubles your carbon footprint. But this is only part of the problem.
Since most returned products can’t be resold, you are forced to find ways to get rid of them, and sometimes, they end up filling landfills. Research estimates that returns contribute about 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
Free returns might prompt consumers to order extra items to taste out and only keep those they like. By introducing a no-free return policy, they will have to think twice before ordering additional items they plan to return.
You should also take additional steps to reduce returns, such as properly labeling items in your store. This includes adding detailed descriptions, attaching high-quality pictures and videos, and providing size guides. This will help clients correctly pick the right products.
Another sustainable tip you can implement when dealing with returns is encouraging your customers to return their products in the same package they received.
Consolidate Orders for Sustainability Shipping
Most eCommerce stores use split shipment to get orders out fast and send them to warehouses and fulfillment centers. However, this can generate extra packaging trash, which is not only costly but can also be hazardous to the environment. You can prevent this by using order consolidation techniques.
While customers prefer same-day delivery, you can offer a free “next-day” delivery that gives you time to consolidate orders going to the same fulfillment store and send them out together instead of sending them out individually.
By consolidating customers’ orders wherever possible, you will be playing your part in reducing emissions produced due to shipping, as your delivery truck will make fewer trips to and from the warehouse.
Another strategy is to set a minimum order quantity to qualify for free delivery. This will encourage consumers to purchase in bulk instead of making split purchases.
The Future Of Ecommerce Must Be Green
Sustainability is the only way forward for eCommerce businesses. Pursuing strategies that put you on track to turn your supply chain green isn’t just another trend set to pass.
Consumers are, more than ever, serious about climate change and its effects on our planet. For that reason, they are only likely to support businesses that align with their values.
You must have a clear strategy to help reduce your carbon footprint, design and package your items sustainably and revamp your logistics to reflect your current values by partnering with shipping companies committed to saving the planet.