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Steps for solving the sustainability puzzle in e-commerce

Retailers that put sustainability at the heart of their business are building a competitive advantage over those that are still operating as though it’s business as usual. There is a  growing recognition that reducing our impact on the environment can unlock huge business benefits, but it can be hard to know where to begin when tackling such an enormous issue. 

A new ebook from ShipStation, “Happy Customers, Healthy Planet”, reveals the key steps online retailers should take to make their business more sustainable and highlights strategies that retailers have adopted to help consumers make more sustainable choices when shopping online. 

Reimagining products with a focus on sustainability can open up new business opportunities. For example, online brand Shampoo With A Purpose developed solid shampoo bars that eliminate the need for plastic shampoo or conditioner bottles. This product innovation has prevented more than 2 million plastic bottles from being made or used.  

Sustainability is also driving innovation at Salvos Stores. The op shop already diverts more than 30 million items from landfill every year and is exploring new and creative ways to encourage sustainable behaviour among shoppers. Last year, Salvos launched an online op shop and in 2019 it partnered with The Iconic so its customers could ship their donated clothing to Salvos Stores free of charge. 

Keeping items in the loop for longer can have a big impact on the environment. It’s estimated that by extending the life of a garment by just nine months, you reduce water, waste and carbon impact by 20-30%. At Salvos, 31 million secondhand items are sold through its network of 350 stores each year, creating a considerable impact. 

Good Business 

Sustainability doesn’t mean sacrificing profit and, in many cases, environmentally friendly practices are a powerful way to differentiate your brand. According to Shannon Ingrey, Vice President & General Manager APAC at BigCommerce consumers are seeking out products and brands that align with their values.

“2020 was a year of significant change for the retail industry. While sustainability may have taken a backseat during the challenges that last year brought about, as we gain a better foothold against COVID-19 the environmental impacts of e-commerce – from delivery to packaging and more – are again becoming front-of-mind,” Ingrey said. 

“Consumers are increasingly recognising and making decisions based on the sustainability practices of a brand and retailers need to consider long-term sustainability options for their business.” 

The Road Ahead 

This pressure is being felt economy wide, meaning that online retailers now have more choice than ever before when it comes to operating their business sustainability. For example, there have been big improvements in the development of recyclable packaging like biodegradable boxes, compostable mailer bags and water dissolvable packing peanuts made from corn starch. 

These packages aren’t just functional, they can also be customised with colours or logos to brand your packaging. 

When it comes to the last mile, carriers understand they must offer low-carbon services for their clients, with many investing in electric vehicles and choosing to offset their carbon emissions. 

These are just two areas where online retailers can reduce their impact on our planet. ShipStation has worked with its partners including BigCommerce, Sendle and noissue to compile an ebook full of practical steps that online retailers can take to become a more sustainable business. 

Making small changes to how your business operates compounds over time, adding up to a significant reduction in waste and carbon emissions. Businesses that view this shift as an opportunity to develop more innovative products and services will thrive as sustainability becomes a more dominant force in our lives. 

Download ShipStation’s “Happy Customers, Healthy Planet” ebook to learn more.