Is Ecommerce Turning Into Green-Commerce?

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Consumer Spending By 401(K) 2012 Via Flickr

Big businesses all over the world are considering the possibility of doing away with their physical brick and mortar operations and instead transitioning to an ecommerce business model. One such reason for this shift is the eco-friendly nature of operating a business online.

Welcome to Green-Commerce

From ecommerce to green-commerce, what’s leading this growth in sustainable business practices? Here are three of the primary factors in play:

  1. Fuel Savings

In the past, if a customer wanted to purchase three very different products, they’d have to get in their vehicle and drive to three different stores – likely using a considerable amount of fuel along the way. With ecommerce, this is no longer necessary. Customers can purchase all three products online without ever leaving the house. Furthermore, with big box etailers like Amazon and Walmart, it’s often possible to purchase multiple different products from the same website.

  1. Paperless Communication

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    Another tremendous environmental benefit of online shopping is the uptick in paperless communication. “Online shoppers can receive confirmations, receipts, offers, newsletters, and bills through their e-mail, which means not only less tree cutting, but a reduction in the fuels necessary for transporting all those paper bills as well,” environmental advocate Maddie Marshall says. “So while your mailman might be sad about the advent of online billing, the environment is reaping the benefits.”

    (In full disclosure, it should be noted that many brick and mortar stores have also started to do their part in improving paperless communication by offering emailed receipts instead of printed receipts.)

    1. Minimized Infrastructure

    One of the biggest green-friendly features of the ecommerce business model is the minimized infrastructure. Brick and mortar stores produce a lot of waste and leave behind a rather significant footprint. Stores require land, structures, utilities, parking lots, display shelves, and much more. Online ecommerce stores simply need a website and a warehouse to store and ship inventory.

    When you look at an ecommerce website, it’s exponentially easier and more efficient to operate. As opposed to needing the physical security measures that come with having a brick and mortar store, all you need is an SSL certificate and some smart practices. Instead of needing costly signage and window advertisements that last for a season, all you need are some web design skills.

    Things Ecommerce Businesses Could Do Better

    Ecommerce is not a perfect solution to the problem of unsustainable business practices. There are at least two aspects that can and should be improved over time:

    1. Same-Day Shipping

    We all love being able to purchase and hold an item within the same day, but this isn’t a convenience that should become a habit in ecommerce. If you want to touch the product the same day you buy it, brick and mortar shopping should be the preferred channel.

    “In analyzing shopping data that represents actual customer behaviors for mall and online shopping, Simon [Property Group] has shown that mall shopping represents a better sustainability performance over online shopping,” one report explains. “Furthermore, in an age when consumers are increasingly demanding same-day or fast delivery, which requires more resources such as fuel to fulfill, the negative impact of online shopping is likely to worsen even more.”

    1. Better Packing

    How many times have you ordered something online and it comes in a box that’s 10-times the size of the product? Oversized boxes clog up supply chains, reduce efficiencies, and aren’t good for the environment. Ecommerce could do better at reducing the use of these oversized boxes.

    What’s in Store for the Future of Business?

    What does the future of business and shopping hold? Only time will tell, but it appears that ecommerce is taking charge on the sustainability front – which bodes will for the industry.