How to be More Eco-Friendly as an eCommerce Seller

The rise in demand for eco-friendly products has caused many businesses to shift to more sustainable business practices and offer more eco-friendly options. In addition, consumer awareness for their own impact on the environment has trickled down into their purchasing habits. This shift in environmental awareness has created great opportunities in eCommerce that can be good for business AND the environment. 

Using environmentally-friendly business practices when you sell online doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive, or time-consuming. Tweaking your business practices to minimize the environmental impact of your business and your consumers can save you time and money. Here are a few ways to make eco-friendly eCommerce work for you.

Optimize Shipping Efficiency

Shipping is part of every eCommerce business. Because eCommerce sellers do not always have physical locations for consumers to shop at and purchase their products, most sellers utilize shipping services to deliver products directly to consumers. Unfortunately, the environment can take a small hit when companies use shipping services. 

Shipping vehicles and freight shipping make up a large portion of global emissions. Freight activity has increased by over 50% between 1990 and 2013. Experts project that global transport emissions will exceed those emitted by passenger vehicles by the year 2050.

Though one eCommerce business can’t combat the effects of global emissions, you can optimize your shipping efficiency to ensure that your shipping process doesn’t hold up your supply chain. The Environmental Protection Agency has a SmartWay service that helps companies measure and benchmark their freight transportation efficiency. 

You can utilize shipping applications that allow you to track your shipments and better ensure they’re moving swiftly to their destination. This choice will minimize the amount of time shipments spend in transit and reduce the emissions released during the transit process.

eCommerce businesses can also opt for partnering with shipping services that offer carbon-neutral shipping. UPS and Flock Freight both offer carbon-neutral shipping services. Shop by Shopify plants trees for every shipment to help offset the environmental impact of shipping. 

If you’re worried about the potential costs of sustainable shipping, you can offer sustainable shipping as an option for customers.  Notify them before finalizing their purchase that there is a small fee to ensure their shipment can be sustainably shipped. 

Combined Shipping Discounts

Many eCommerce sellers charge a flat rate shipping fee for one item and an additional fee for more items. To incentivize your customers to purchase additional items all at once, make sure that your shipping fee for additional items is less than your flat rate shipping fee for the first item.

This way, you create a monetary incentive for your customers to purchase more items in a single transaction. More items in one box means using less shipping material than you would if you packed each item with its own set of shipping materials. 

This tactic can also help you clear inventory more quickly since your customer will be paying less for shipping. This ensures that you are incentivizing your business and consumers to participate in more eco-friendly eCommerce practices. 

Sustainable Packaging

Some eCommerce sellers are notorious for using obscene amounts of packing material. Once products get to consumers, all of that packing material goes into the trash and stays in landfills for decades. Plastic bags take 1,000 years to decompose fully. To help cut down on waste from packaging materials, try using packaging materials that are reusable, compostable, recyclable, or made from previously recycled materials. 

As an alternative to tissue paper, consider using cloth as packing stuffing or wrapping your products in a reusable tote bag to cut down on packaging waste. These materials may not look exactly like the materials you use now. Still, consumers are more receptive to less common forms of packaging if they know it’s meant to reduce waste. 

Your product packaging can also be a significant source of waste. For instance, many beauty products come in plastic containers. You can opt to use reusable glass containers as an alternative. Products that come in sturdy cardboard containers can also be reused by consumers as pencil holders or organizing containers.

To help encourage consumers to repurpose your product packaging, consider creating an email message or posting a blog on your company’s website explaining potential ways that consumers can repurpose your packaging. 

Sustainable Products

A strong move toward providing sustainable eCommerce is offering eco-friendly products. Eco-friendly products can be made with locally sourced ingredients, be free of dyes, microplastics, or sulfates, or made with sustainably sourced materials. 

Selling products made in an environmentally conscious manner can help establish your eCommerce business as eco-friendly. Because this is a large pivot as far as branding and production, it’s a great business move for eCommerce sellers looking for a change or re-brand.

While offering eco-friendly products is a wonderful idea, it may not be feasible for businesses simply trying to make their existing business model more eco-friendly. If you want to sell eco-friendly products without completely rebranding, you can offer an eco-friendly line of some of your current products. 

Limit Paper Use

Online stores often include packing information, order information, item care information, and receipts in their consumers’ packages. In the United States, 3 million trees are cut down, 9 billion gallons of water are used, and over 4 billion pounds of CO2 are emitted from the use and production of receipts. To cut down on paper use, you can give your customers the option to receive this information digitally via text or email. You can continue to offer paperless shipments as an option or slowly phase it out. 

Regardless of your approach to limiting paper use, ensure that your buyers are informed of the process. You can consider polling your buyers with an online survey to get an idea of how they feel about going paperless or having paperless shipments as an option. 

Say No to Greenwashing

If you are going to market your eCommerce business as sustainable, you need to be genuine about it. Today’s consumers can see right through “greenwashing” or the practice of marketing your products and processes as sustainable when they in fact aren’t. While you don’t have to be perfect, the claims you are making about your products, packaging, shipping, etc. need to have a genuine impact on your carbon footprint. Plus, you shouldn’t have other business practices that are in fact harming the environment more than the so-called “green” practices that you are marketing are helping the environment. 

Get Better Funding

No matter how you plan on moving your eCommerce business towards a more eco-friendly model, you’re going to need access to funding. Unfortunately, not all funding solutions understand the unique needs of eCommerce businesses. Payability offers eCommerce sellers access to up to $250,000 to spend on business expenses with Instant Advance and accelerated daily marketplace payouts with Instant Access.  

Payability is a funding option for eCommerce sellers who need to keep up with the fast pace of eCommerce. That’s why Payability’s application process can take as little as one business day and does not require any credit checks. Since Payability’s products are debt-free and equity-free, they are truly sustainable options for your growing eCommerce business. Apply here to get started. 

Victoria Sullivan
Victoria Sullivan is a Marketing Manager at Payability. She has over eight years of social media, copywriting and marketing experience. Prior to joining the Payability team, Victoria developed social media content and strategies for top technology brands such as Skype and Samsung. She holds a degree in Advertising from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. She can often be found in a yoga class or working on her fashion blog.

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