3 Quick Fixes for Greener Ecommerce

Ecommerce isn’t very eco. It is frequently the opposite. A next-day delivery — in which a motorist travels 45 minutes each way for a $7 item in a single-use plastic package — makes no sense for the planet.

To be certain, consumers love the ease of ecommerce. But increasingly they appreciate brand purpose and trust.

Until recently, environmental issues did not much matter. But attitudes are changing quickly. Environmentally concerned shoppers are quickly becoming mainstream. Four million people took to the streets worldwide for the September 20″Global climate attack,” demanding bold actions.

This is particularly true of younger consumers who’ve grown up with climate science as part of the schooling. Many are frustrated about a lack of progress by the two governments and organizations to tackle carbon emissions, as evidenced recently by an angry speech in the United Nations by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year old Swedish activist. Given the audience of world leaders, her speech is direct and remarkable.

Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of operations, declared in September that Amazon is buying 100,000 electric delivery vans, possibly signaling a tipping point on the importance of ecological sensitivity.

Patagonia, the outdoor clothing retailer, has powerful eco-credentials. It has dedicated to being carbon neutral by 2025 (i.e., emitting no net carbon dioxide). My firm, SAP, has the identical 2025 goal. Other brands like Bosch have committed to being carbon neutral as early as 2020. Amazon is aiming for 2040.

Most carbon emissions in ecommerce come from supply chains. Ninety-seven percentage of Patagonia’s emissions come from its supply chain — 86 percent come from Patagonia’s raw materials and related logistics. This adds complexity to becoming carbon neutral because most emissions are from providers, their method of manufacture, and their shipping procedures. Thus an additional element in selecting suppliers is eco-credentials.

So how do ecommerce merchants quickly make an impact? Listed below are three fixes.

3 Fixing for Greener Ecommerce

Order management. BOPIS (buy online and pick up in-store) and in-store book are more economical delivery options than a direct dispatch from a distribution centre. A BOPIS customer travel leverages a truck which was delivering inventory to the shop. Probably a BOPIS customer unites errands and, often, purchases multiple items in the shop.

Beyond BOPIS, shipping products directly in the closest shop (versus a remote distribution centre ) also reduces carbon emissions while possibly enabling same-day shipping.

Merchants without physical shops can send from the closest distribution center or minimize the route. Check your shipping rules to analyze.

Packaging. Packaging of this product and its fulfillment are crucial.

The Body Shop provides an in-store charge for recycling. Click image to expand.

By way of instance, customers that seek little if any plastic in their own lives struggle with consumables like shampoo and the packaging it’s shipped in. Providing easy ways to market product packaging in-store is an established winner. Additionally, it brings shoppers back.

By way of instance, The Body Shop, a cosmetics firm, is a longtime leader in ethical sourcing and recycling. It provides customers an in-store credit when they return five product containers for recycling.

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Delivery packaging can be highly visible. Avoid single-use plastics. Consider recycled cardboard and shredded, recycled paper packaging.

Continuity commerce. Selling goods on continuity programs, where products are automatically shipped to clients, can boost profits by 40 percent and tap into green consumer opinion. Replenishment items can be sent in recyclable, lower-cost packaging versus one-time retail products. An extra step is to provide an envelope so the client can return the empty refill container for recycling.


Tactical steps are a start. A more strategic approach for becoming greener is dimension — knowing your carbon footprint. There are vendors that will generate a carbon balance sheet for your organization. It would identify where you are, how much work to do, and the biggest difficulties. In my experience, most firms have many liabilities rather than many assets. It is often a wake-up call for direction.

Look at a simple, three-stage sustainability approach:”prevent,””reduce,” and”compensate.”

  • Prevent. Find places where you are able to avoid carbon emissions entirely, like reducing air-freight shipments. Communicate this to shoppers when completing a purchase, to assist them variable in price, speed of shipping, and emissions. (One transatlantic flight is equal to nearly 10,000 miles by car concerning carbon emissions.)
  • Reduce. Identify options for carbon reductions, like switching suppliers, encouraging providers to reduce emissions, and changing raw materials. This, also, can be shared with clients. Many would reduce the amount of single orders, combining shipments wherever possible.
  • Compensate. Use carbon offsets for inevitable places. Pick offsets which are audited and achieve a verified incremental effect on removing CO2 from the air. The very best approach is frequently new forest planting projects, which extract CO2 from the air. You might also offer customers the choice of purchasing carbon offsets as part of the purchase. Airlines do so already. It adds a couple of bucks to the fare, typically.

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