Ecommerce already stands as a more sustainable alternative to in-store shopping, based on research spearheaded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Transportation & Logistics, and other organizations. Global logistics real estate firm ProLogis noted that, “ecommerce is substantially more efficient,” than individual, point-to-point trips by consumers to brick-and-mortar retailers. The MIT study found that the carbon emissions for ecommerce transportation is 36 percent less than those created from in-store shopping. Van deliveries can replace more than 100 individual car trips to stores. As more delivery companies adopt electronic vehicles, that positive environmental impact will be even greater.
Even so, there’s lots that ecommerce retailers can do to become more sustainable. Earth Day, on April 22, as well as Earth Month, is the perfect time to implement eco-friendly changes. Brands can look to many Hawke Media partners for ideas and inspiration for increased sustainability.
Offset Your Brand’s Carbon Footprint
Ecommerce is inherently more sustainable than brick-and-mortarretail, but there are ways you can further reduce or offset your brand’s carbon footprint. What’s the difference between reducing and offsetting carbon emissions? When you reduce your carbon footprint, you choose more sustainable business practices and choose sustainable partners.
When you offset carbon emissions, you’re taking action to support or fund other projects that reduce the Earth’s overall carbon footprint. The net result is the same: fewer total emissions and a healthier planet over time.
How to offset carbon emissions with third-party partners
One example of offsetting carbon emissions would be to plant a tree for every order you receive or you can partner with companies who offset carbon emissions for you. For example, Ecodrive plants a tree to directly offset each shipment from your ecommerce site. They also provide strategies to share your sustainability story. The app also allows you to give customers the option to choose to plan a tree with every purchase.
Similarly, EcoCart uses a variety of tactics to directly offset the carbon footprint of an order every time a customer opts-in to do so. The customer might pay an extra 48 cents to offset the carbon footprint of a pair of sneakers by planting a tree, filtering water, or protecting a river or forest. The amount of the donation will vary depending on the products purchased.
Choose Sustainable Vendors
You can directly reduce your company’s carbon footprint by choosing sustainable business partners and vendors. Manifest Commerce is a 3PL omnichannel fulfillment service that offers carbon neutral shipping, sustainable packaging that is free of plastic and green warehousing. Since ecommerce shipping methods are already more sustainable than individual shopping trips, packaging tends to be the weak link in ecommerce sustainability. Manifest solves this problem with recyclable packaging and green warehouses to reduce your company’s carbon footprint even further.
If you prefer to handle shipping yourself, Arka provides eco-friendly custom poly mailers at an affordable price for small ecommerce retailers. The company also sells eco-friendly corrugated cardboard boxes and uses sustainable practices. They are also FSC certified, which means the packaging materials come from well-managed forests.
Partnering with companies like Manifest Commerce or Arka also shows consumers that you care about your company’s impact on the planet.
Give customers the choice to give back
Sustainable companies often make an impact in less obvious ways. It’s important to tout your devotion to sustainability because today’s customers care. The recent EY Future Consumer Index revealed that 26 percent of consumers said they place the “environmental impact of brands ahead of affordability.” Consumers also seek out brands that align with their values, which includes their commitment to sustainability. The study showed that 56 percent of those polled pay attention to the environmental effects of their purchases, while 52 percent focus on the social impact.
The Givz app allows consumers to decide what causes and initiatives they want to support. Brands can use donation incentives to give customers the opportunity to support the causes they care about. Givz says that the average order value increases by 30 percent when ecommerce brands employ Givz to incentivize purchases through donations.
Create a Business Model Where Sustainability Is Baked-in
If you are just launching your business, you might think about how you can add sustainability initiatives directly into your offerings. Treet is one example of a company doing good for Earth Month and beyond. The company lets consumers buy and sell items from each other, reducing waste and minimizing needs for new purchases.
Entrepreneurs can launch their own ecommerce site through Treet in less than a week and gain all the support inherent in working with an established company. The concept of “recommerce” is growing, as shown by the popularity of Facebook Marketplace. Treet.co projects $77B in growth for the secondhand market through 2025.
What Will You Do For Earth Day?
From evaluating your vendors, to seeing where you could make more sustainable choices, to shifting your business practices to a more sustainable model, Earth Month is a great time to start making better choices for the planet. It’s the right thing to do and it’s what consumers want. It can be hard to know where to get started, but remember that even the smallest changes can make a big difference.
Interested in learning more about any of the mentioned partners in this post? Reach out to [email protected] for introductions.
As the Senior Vice President of Partnerships at Hawke Media, Ashley oversees the agency's partner program. With over a dozen years of experience in both traditional and digital marketing, Ashley is a performance marketing leader that specializes in paid social advertising, focusing on ecommerce brands and B2B SaaS companies.