Green eCommerce: 8 Ways to Improve the Environmental Impact of Your Online Store

April 20, 2018 by Simon Ironmonger

The idea of a person or business going ‘green’ isn’t a new phenomenon. The concept however has actually had a recent revival thanks to viral videos making us aware of the amount of plastic that is being found in the sea (approx 30 million tonnes a year). This recent re-awakening has further increased modern customers’ desires to make purchases only from responsible retailers who show that they strive to improve the impact their stores have on the environment. This sets us up nicely for an introduction to green eCommerce and how, as an owner of an online store, you can be more green.

Green eCommerce

There’s no doubt about it, eCommerce is big business. By 2022 online sales are forecast to rise to $638,051 million, that’s an increase of $176,469 million from 2018. Just think of all the extra orders that will be placed and products shipped and delivered. The impact on the environment will be huge and it’s time for companies to act responsibly and strive to become green eCommerce.

Becoming a green eCommerce business doesn’t necessarily mean that it will cost you money in the long run. In fact it does wonders for your marketing, helping you gain a positive image in the market as a responsible retailer. As mentioned earlier, this appeals to an ever-increasingly conscious group of consumers, of which, 64% take into account the sustainability of a company’s supply chain and 55% consider an online retailer’s overall carbon footprint when deciding whether to make a purchase.

Going Greener

So how exactly can we achieve green eCommerce? Well here’s four ways inspired by Sustainable Business Toolkit to make a start…

1 – Sustainable or Green Products

Think about the products you sell. Think sustainability. Are your products made from sustainably-sourced materials? Can you find a more ethical supplier for the raw materials which has a smaller operating carbon footprint?

Just like retailers who are considering their impact on the environment, companies you work with from the design stage, to production and delivery will want to show how green they are too. So at every step of the way you should find greener companies to work with.

2 – Recyclable & Efficient Packaging

It’s unusual today to find products from reputable retailers that contain no instructions on how to recycle both the packing waste and the product itself when you are finished with it. So making sure that your store adopts recycling practices is a must.

You should also consider how you can package your product in the most eco-friendly way. Generally this means reducing the size and amount of waste of the packaging, not only does this reduce costs spent on packaging but also means you should be able to ship more at one time.

3 – Greener Shipping & Delivery Methods

So if cutting down on packaging allows for more products to be shipped at the same time then we’re off to a good start. But what can you do to get them there in a eco-friendly way? Well greener shipping does exist, just search for companies that support the Sustainability Shipping Initiative (SSI) and opt for one of it’s members to ship your products.

Regarding local delivery methods, there are a few options to offer your customers, but firstly, educating them on how shipping and delivery impacts the environment can often lead to the customer selecting a greener method themselves. If the ordered product is not urgent then some customers may be happy to wait longer for it to be delivered if it is better for the environment.

Amazon have localized delivery pickup lockers that better-serve customers who can plan their journey to pickup their purchases when they are already in the area, removing the need for a delivery truck to make several trips around the region.

In addition to the lockers, we’re slowly seeing the implementation of Amazon’s Prime Air delivery drones. The kings of US online retail are certainly leading the way in more-sustainable green eCommerce delivery methods.

4 – Giving Something Back

It’s time to give something back! Many companies offer clients the chance to help offset the carbon footprint involved in fulfilling their online purchases. This normally involves a customer paying slightly more for the product or by making a donation, with the aim this extra money will go towards helping the environment. Well as a store owner, why not take a leaf out of Italian watch company WeWOOD‘s book.

In addition to using sustainable and biodegradable materials, WeWOOD plants a tree for each product sold in collaboration with Trees for the Future, a nonprofit organization:

Going Greener Still

The following four examples are not strictly limited to the field of eCommerce, but every business place can improve and become greener by adopting similar practices in the office environment…

5 – Go Paperless & Recycle

Going paperless and recycling in the workplace have almost become industry standards in most businesses these days, but still more can be done to ensure you are recycling as much waste as you can and only printing or using paper for note taking when it’s really necessary.

6 – Conduct an Energy Audit

When you look around in the workplace there are always ways to reduce the amount of energy used. For starters, be sure to check that computers, monitors, printers etc are switched off at the end of the day and swap traditional lightbulbs for energy-efficient LEDs. Also consider where you source your energy from. Is it from a green source such as wind or solar?

7 – Working From Home

By offering your employees the chance to work from home cuts down on the environmental impact of their journey to work. Working from home also encourages more meetings to be held online which again reduces the impacts of travel. In addition working from home also reduces the need to heat or cool large offices for sometimes just a few employees working that particular day.

8 – Reward Green Practices

Rewarding your employees for their green behavior is a great way to encourage and maintain green practices in the workplace. For example walking, cycling, carpooling or taking public transport instead of driving everyday helps the environment and could be rewarded with a team night out or extra vacation time.

A Greener Future

In the world of online retail, very little is actually required to set up shop, hence it’s appeal with entrepreneurs. However when a business is ready to grow then it is inevitable that it has to consider the impact it has on the environment. By acting as green as you can from the get-go then making changes later down the line shouldn’t come as such a dramatic shock in the way you operate and strive to achieve a green eCommerce business.

Implementing the eight changes suggested above certainly cannot be done overnight. The best practice would be to set a clear plan of the areas you hope to improve on and set realistic goals to achieve them. Informing your customers of your intentions is not only great for marketing, but is also an important way to engage with your community and humanize your business. One of the best ways to do this is to make a sustainability pledge which clearly states your intentions and environmental goals. As changes are made, celebrate them and be sure to inform your customers, letting them know what is next on the agenda.

As we’ve seen in the case of Amazon’s drones, advances in technology are only set to improve the way retailers deliver their goods to their customers. Other advances such as virtual reality shopping are revolutionizing the way we shop all-together, with the removal of energy-consuming malls and brick and mortar stores and less trips in the car.

Only time will tell just how much new technologies will help the environment, but if you start making the changes covered in this article then you and your store will not only become a leader in green eCommerce, but you’ll also feel super cool in doing so just like the legendary Captain Planet!  

If you have more examples on how to achieve green eCommerce, or would like to tell us what your business is doing to be more eco-friendly then please comment below. Alternatively send this around to your employees to think collectively about how you can do more.




Simon Ironmonger

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