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Environment

5 Ways for E-Commerce to Reduce its Environmental Impact

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There is no denying the reality that e-commerce is becoming more popular. But what impact is it having on the planet?

One study by Generation IM found that the carbon footprint of e-commerce is 17% lower

than traditional stores. On the surface, this sounds promising. However, it seems to also encourage wasteful consumption, so the environmental benefits might be negated if e-commerce companies don’t take the right steps to lower their carbon footprint.

Lowering the Carbon Footprint of E-Commerce Businesses is Going to Be Very Important Moving Forward

We can keep hearing new stories about how E-commerce is the main reason why so many startups managed to find their place on the market. But, that is only part of the story about the influence that online commerce has had on the economy.

Large companies and retail chains had the same opportunities to boost their sales and achieve better revenues, so it hasn’t necessarily made things a lot easier for small businesses. According to the first analysis and reports, online platforms have helped brands and companies to survive the beginning of the 2020s’, which was one of the most challenging periods in recent history.

To be completely fair, E-commerce deserves applause for presenting the new economic trends, and for being an innovative, technology-oriented, and adaptive business branch. From the current perspective, it might be our crash-protection solution for inflation and stagnation. Recently emerged MACH architecture and other new concepts that follow the headless commerce breakthrough are all clear signs that E-commerce has plenty of free space for further upgrades and developments. 

All positive factors aside, we as a society also have to come up with ways to protect the environment from its rapid development and our new shopping habits.

Convenience and stability

According to experts, an aggressive technological expansion made it possible for E-commerce to prosper. However, with social distancing and lockdowns, this process was substantially accelerated to the point that the vast majority of trading was done exclusively online. There is no need to worry about traffic, fuel, or working hours. Also, customers can take all the time in the world to make a choice. So, if a company has a carefully planned online presence, a good website interface, an adjusted quality/price ratio, a knowledgeable customer support service, and sound marketing tips, there is a very good chance that the business can reach its consumers and grow forward.

With so many employees being comfortable working from home, E-commerce has no problem adapting to that situation either or producing new jobs and job opportunities. Even though it’s irrational to expect any kind of economic stability, particularly in 2022, there is enough proof that so far E-commerce has had its share in contributing to the sense of hope and safety within this business model.

What about sustainability?

Talking about the future, sustainability is another problem we need to think about. Unfortunately, the E-commerce supply chain is the source of several negative environmental aspects. The carbon emission caused by manufacturing, shipping, and packaging waste is rapidly raising and according to recent predictions will go up 30% within the next 8 years. Most retailers use paper, plastic, and cardboard, but also textile and other materials such as foams for their packages. The carbon footprint from electronic devices and Internet use reached almost 4% of total carbon emission and is expected to become 8% by 2025.

With so much pollution and waste growth accumulated in a short period, the concern for E-commerce environmental impact is realistic and asks for instant global action.

Ways to make E-commerce more sustainable

The number of people who want to buy from environmentally responsible businesses is constantly growing. Over 70% of buyers from North America, Europe, and Asia are conscious of their online shopping habits and choices. Although implementation might be financially challenging for some, these 5 ways can help E-commerce businesses to become greener.

Packaging reductions

Most shipped products are wrapped in plastic bags and bubble wraps. Plastic is one of the cheapest materials at the moment so it’s vastly and globally used for this purpose. Furthermore, plastic packaging reached over 40% of all the world’s plastic waste. And, unfortunately, only 8.7% of that waste is recycled.

The best way for companies to reduce their participation in these numbers is to reevaluate the packaging they use. At the moment, there are more sustainable packaging solutions on the market than ever before. These new options are recyclable, reusable, and compostable. Also, online retailers can switch to biodegradable labels, tapes, and envelopes. Some companies adjusted their policy and offered a two-way shipping option with the possibility to pick up the packaging waste at the customer’s address. Adjusting the package to the size of products might cost more but this decision will result in consumers being less irritated and more eager to choose the same company again.

Shipping methods

Eco-friendly e-commerce brands need the right contingency plans in place. One of the most important is to make sure that the right shipping strategies are in place.

The last-mile delivery and fast deliveries’ participation in global carbon emission, unfortunately, grew substantially in the last two and a half years. One way to contribute to the efforts to lower it down is to pick a carrier with a green option such as electric vehicles or bikes. For retailers who have their delivery service, organizing a delivery spot for clients in a certain area could be a solution too. Another way is to use discounts to award customers who pick shipment options with longer delivery times instead of fast delivery.

Returns management

Although the return policy can be a very beneficial strategy to attract customers it also can take a toll on the environment. With over 50% of returns, the return shipping logistics became a nightmare with serious greenhouse gas consequences. Luckily, companies can use several options to reduce the negative impact.

Repackaging or carefully evaluating the return products for the resell at a lower price. Or, the repair option can be offered to customers who don’t insist on replacing the received defective product with a new one.

Website optimization

The reason to consider this option is an average of 1.8g of carbon released per web page view. Unnecessary features such as animations or an extensive number of photos can actually make the website less pollutant. Furthermore, it’s also one tactic to shorten loading time and improve SEO.

Certified green suppliers

Finding a sustainable producer is still not an easy task, but it’s worth trying. The good news is that more suppliers are looking for ways to become more environmentally friendly, to be able to certify their production process. These certifications are proof that factories can have energy-efficient and healthier production lines and facilities.

yan Kh is an experienced blogger, digital content & social marketer. Founder of Catalyst For Business and contributor to search giants like Yahoo Finance and MSN. He is passionate about covering topics like sustainability, green-business approach and high-tech innovations.

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