In celebration of Earth Month and inspired by the work our partners at EcoCart are doing to establish a green eCommerce ecosystem, Hawke Media reached out to Dane Baker, Founder & CEO of EcoCart to get his perspective on some of our most pressing questions when it comes to going green and staying profitable.
You can also catch Dane Baker, Benedict von Merey, and Ashley Scorpio in discussion on 4/29/2021 at 10:00 AM PDT for “Earn Green by Going Green: Sustainability in E-commerce”. Save your seat by clicking the banner below:
1) Firstly, why is green eCommerce more important now than it’s ever been? And what impact can that have on our carbon footprint?
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s our reliance on online shopping. With 2020, we saw a massive surge in retail sales via e-commerce, and this trend is definitely expected to continue. This increase in online shopping means more packages shipped, faster deliveries, and ultimately more carbon emissions released into the atmosphere.
In the last year especially, many consumers have grown accustomed to fast delivery and expect their packages to arrive in only a few days. This lightning-fast delivery comes at a steep price—for the environment anyway. Freight movement is not only the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, last-mile freight is a major contributor to local air pollution, often in disadvantaged communities. Last-mile delivery growth will increase carbon emissions by 30% by 2030. By continuing on this trajectory, we are putting an untenable strain on our planet.
2) What is eCommerce’s impact on the Earth?
eCommerce is a major contributor to the Earth’s total carbon emissions. Getting a package to your doorstep from across the world is not without planes, trains, ships, and automobiles that all emit carbon on their respective journey. eCommerce also contributes to a growing issue of excess waste and plastic products. Typical packaging is not recyclable, and even if it is, only about 70% of corrugated cardboard in the world is successfully recaptured for recycling. Excess packaging (like when you get a tiny product in a massive box), unsustainable padding, extra marketing collateral packed with the order, and orders shipped in more than one package all contribute to excess waste, that typically ends up in landfills.
3) Why has this message started to resonate more with shoppers lately? Did the pandemic accelerate this shift in consciousness/thinking towards brands?
Consumer sentiment has definitely seen a shift, especially with Millennials and Gen Z. These modern consumers are opinionated and eco-conscious, pushing back against companies with business practices that don’t align with their beliefs about sustainability. Most consumers—some 88%—would buy a product with a social and environmental benefit if given the opportunity, and 92% would be more likely to trust a company that supports social or environmental issues. We at EcoCart think a lot of people are realizing that the pandemic exacerbated the issue of excess waste and lack of sustainable products, especially with the demand of disposable gloves, masks, and other PPE—much of which is now in landfills for the next 500 years or so. This pandemic also forced a lot of people to slow down which I think allowed them to be more considerate and deliberate in their actions and what type of companies they support.
4) Who are the shoppers that are starting to take green eCommerce more seriously and factoring it into their purchase decisions? What exactly are they looking for?
Millennials and Gen Z are definitely leading the charge in green e-commerce. Millennials especially are an attractive target group for many e-commerce brands since their purchasing power is continuously increasing. They spend almost $600 billion every year, a number that is expected to grow to $1.4 trillion by 2020. If you want to win this large group of young people as customers, being outwardly eco-friendly plays an important role in attracting this audience. A recent survey found out that 70% of millennials say that a company’s environmental focus influences their purchase decisions. In order to capture this audience, a company has to consider these shoppers’ values, which in recent years has increased focus on sustainability.
5) Can brands adopt green practices and still grow?
When it comes to sustainability and being more “green,” oftentimes, brands think of it as an all-or-nothing approach. And it makes sense—sustainability on the surface feels very complicated, and with complicated updates and adjustments to your business comes a steep cost. Taking this approach can easily end in failure, or a brand giving up trying to adopt more eco-friendly practices. The best way for any company to adopt green practices is by implementing practical changes that are easy to implement and maintain, but make the biggest possible positive impact despite how simple or straightforward they might appear.
6) What are some steps brands can take now to adopt greener practices?
An immediate thing any brand can do is self-evaluation. They can look at different aspects of their current practices and see where there is room for improvement and change. For example, if they take something like packaging, how can they use compostable packing peanuts, or made from recycled material mailers and boxes? Even better, how can they cut excess packaging, like marketing materials and confetti? Adjusting packaging is an especially compelling adjustment for an eCommerce brand because it’s something consumers pay a ton of attention to. We are always having conversations with people about how they open a huge box for a small item they ordered or that their order was wrapped in a ton of unnecessary plastic. Brands should be taking note of those patterns in sentiment and evaluating their own practices.
7) What does “Earth Month” mean to you and EcoCart?
We love the sentiment around Earth Day, but really wanted to take it a step further and see how we can leverage the excitement of Earth Day all month long—since we’re celebrating the home we all share, it’s definitely worth a whole month of celebration, if not more.
The Earth means a lot to us at EcoCart, obviously, so we want to make it a point to celebrate it, while also highlighting the need for change. We hope that this year, we can help shape the conversation around a more sustainable future for eCommerce.
8) How does your solution seek to address the impact eCommerce has on the planet? What have you been able to accomplish so far?
EcoCart is a great option for brands of all sizes, no matter where they are in their overall sustainability journey. Sometimes, it’s a first step in changing how they practice sustainability or the final element of their eco-friendly mission. We want to be there for brands at all stages of sustainability and help them achieve their eco-conscious goals without breaking the bank or completely overhauling how they run their business.
In an ideal world, everyone would be able to support their favorite brands without worrying about things like carbon footprints or excess waste—but right now, that’s not a realistic option. So in the meantime, while we work towards a more carbon positive world, we need to work together to change the current system in place and improve it wherever we can. For our team at EcoCart that means changing the negative impact that shipping eCommerce goods have on the environment. Thus far, EcoCart has offset 25 million lbs of CO2 which is equivalent to powering 1.125 million light bulbs or the annual emissions from 7,500 cows.
EcoCart is on a mission to make fighting climate change simple, cost-effective, and accessible for everyone. EcoCart offers an e-commerce plugin for merchants on Shopify, BigCommerce, and other major platforms, giving brands the ability to offer carbon neutral orders. EcoCart partners with carefully vetted, ethically proven, and scientifically verified carbon offsetting projects that comply with the world’s major carbon standards to enable brands to seamlessly bring sustainable shopping to their customers. Get started at ecocart.io/business.