Did you know that since July 29, 2019, we all live in debt to the Earth? Humanity’s current demand on Earth is 1.75 times what our planet’s ecosystems regenerate each year.

This ecological debt can’t be wiped away, we cannot bargain with a system for borrowed resources. We all are in the same boat and this ecological crisis concerns everybody.

Corporate sustainability idea can’t be used as greenwashing any more.

Strategic sustainability must become the compass of any business. And taking in count significant rising of eCommerce, that as trade, in general, is not sustainable by the default, as it pushes overconsuming, that actually exhausts planet sources and generates a lot of waste. Popularizing sustainability in eCommerce may cause a dramatic change.

If you still need a measured in money evidence, here is one for you. Consumers are becoming far more environmentally aware. 64% of customers take into account the sustainability of a company’s supply chain and 55% consider an online retailer’s overall carbon footprint when deciding whether to make a purchase.

66% of global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods, a full 73% of Millennials are.

So ask yourself - how my business can help humanity succeed on this one planet or at least how to reduce the harmful impact?

There are 3 main areas where we can improve eCommerce sustainability:

  • products itself
  • sustainable packaging
  • sustainable shipping

Products itself (environmentally friendly products)

Produce or produce and sell green products. Find more ethical suppliers, work with greener companies, that have a smaller operating carbon footprint.

FMCG enterprises like Nestlé, Coca Cola and P&G, already are in a race to adapt to rapidly changing consumer trends, including a rise in veganism and increasing activism on plastic packaging (Source: Fast Moving Consumers). The companies best prepared to reduce emissions in the supply chain include Danone and Nestlé in the Food and Beverage sub-sector and Unilever and L’Oréal in Household and Personal Care.

Companies are also being forced to rethink their approach to packaging, particularly if it is made from plastic – 60% of companies are investing in biodegradable plastic and recycling infrastructure, with Danone leading the way in this field.

Businesses that are closing eyes on their footprint are in high risk falling foul caused by changing consumer demands. They also risk falling foul of tighter regulations, including the EU’s amended rules on reducing packaging waste at source as well as improving recycling and recovery, while product labeling and carbon footprinting are on the horizon. (Source: Forbes).

Sustainable packaging

Sustainable packaging is the development and use of packaging which results in improved sustainability. This involves increased use of life cycle inventory (LCI) and life cycle assessment (LCA) to help guide the use of packaging which reduces the environmental impact and ecological footprint (Source: Wikipedia).

As an eCommerce business, you not always can have an impact on the product package if you just selling ready goods on your web store. But at least you may choose items with a recyclable pack. And you definitely can choose safety wrapping and boxing to deliver products to your customers.

So let’s discover the most sustainable packaging trends in 2019. Maybe some of them will suit your business.

  1. Packaging product is designed for recycling. It has to fulfill a long list of requirements (separability, cleanliness, labeling, coloration, etc). But unfortunately, designed for recycling isn’t equal will be recycled as it requires recycling infrastructure. So keep in mind that such package still can get to the landfill. Solution - compostable package, if it works for your products and business requirements.

  2. Designed to reuse. It is a kind of milkman method. But it may require more robust packaging materials and additional forces for washing and sterilization. Another example is the reusable bag but it should be used at least 50 times to be equal to single-use one. So it should be designed in a special way for this purpose.

  3. Replacing plastics with paper. But it really matters if this paper is sustainable, for instance, it was produced with recycled materials without acids or is FSC certified.

FSC 100% - the wood within the product comes completely from FSC-certified well-managed forests. FSC Recycled - all the wood or paper in the product comes from reclaimed (re-used) material. FSC Mix - the wood within the product is from FSC-certified forests, recycled material, or controlled wood.

  1. Shift to mono-materials. Laminates and composite packaging from multiple materials constitute is a headache for recycling, it required high efforts to separate them and that makes their recycling inefficient. Solution - instead of several lyres of different materials design the box from only one but in such form that will keep the product from crush and damage, save space to make transportation more efficient and be appealing for customer. It sounds like a real challenge but in reality, just some brainpower and a little bit of outside-the-box thinking and you’ll find your green packaging solution.

  2. Sustainable package design. Peerless resource group found that an average box contains 20% of wasted space, which shipping facilities than fill with papers, styrofoam or bubble wrap ultimately creating more waste. Solution - right-sizing of the boxes to reduce the amount of packaging for a product.

Find responsible packaging supplier. For instance, noissue.co, they allow merchants to design own eco-friendly custom tissue paper. They also have 100% compostable mailers. They protecting products just as well as common polymailer (or poly-mailer). But they are significantly better for the environment, as they are completely compostable in 6 months or less. Furthermore, this company ships anywhere in the world within 2-3 weeks.

And it took several seconds to find such packaging supplier.

Sustainable shipping

Traditional offline shoppers have a carbon footprint of almost twice that of online shoppers. And the main reason why they have such a large footprint is that they use cars to get to malls and shops. So if customers will take public transport or bike their footprint plummets. But if an online shopper opts for express delivery, like two-day mailing his transportation emission doubling. It forces companies like Amazon to send vans out to deliver packages even if they just half-full in order to fulfill customer expectations. As a result transport emissions enhance as trucks have to make multiple trips between warehouses and homes. But if delivery wasn’t so urgent, trucks could make a single trip, filling more orders. Or it could be used a more environmentally friendly type of transportation like a cargo ship or railway.

Solution - offer your customers slow shipping as a green option. Not all of them are really in need of express delivery. Another solution - in-store pickup, that facilitates your customers to purchase online and pick up their products from a convenient point.

If you are running multiple stores with multiple warehouses you can make your business greener just making your inventory more efficient. And leading eCommerce platforms like Magento are ready to help you with that. For instance, Magento has Multi Source Inventory (MSI) extension that enhances Inventory Management, enabling you to manage inventory for a single or across multiple locations and sales channels with concurrent checkout protection and shipment matching algorithms.

Such intelligent inventory improves customer experience. Due to global visibility, you can find the required product in the nearest to the client store or warehouse and deliver it to the client faster. As a result, intelligent inventory drives sales, satisfying the most desirable customer need to get what they want ASAP and makes shipping more sustainable as orders trips are shorter and more efficient.

Summary

Happily people keen on sustainable companies. And it pushes leading companies to act, redefine the role of business in society, engaging with suppliers, innovating their product lines and even working with consumers to drive behavior change. But all these efforts really matter if the will spread globally and all kind of businesses will replicate the sustainable approach

Be courageous, think out-of-the-box, analyze your whole supply chain and proper R&D to develop sustainable packaging for your business.

Cutting down shipping emissions may be in nudging shoppers toward slower shipping options or in-store pickup if it’s possible.

People keen on sustainable companies.

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