The development of E-commerce seems to be unstoppable. More and more consumers are buying their products online, notably influenced by the development of Internet accessibility and the democratization of smartphones.
Even if this is good news for sellers around the world, E-commerce has an impact on the health of our planet. In the era of reaction to climate change, it is everyone’s responsibility to consume in a more ethical and environmentally friendly way. Despite the fact that e-commerce emits less greenhouse gasses than physical commerce, it still has an influence on pollution. It is expected that online sales will reach a total of 6.4 billion dollars in 2024.
In order to help you in a process of ecological redesign of your E-commerce, we wrote this article with the different reasons why you should opt for more eco-friendly processes, as well as some advice.
What is green E-commerce?
Green E-commerce refers to selling your products online, but in a way that limits your impact on the environment. Indeed, when consumers buy on the Internet, it limits the emission of greenhouse gasses. This is mainly due to the limitation of processes such as :
- Traveling to a physical point of sale using their personal vehicle
- The transport of products in the store
- The printing of receipts
- Printing of POS material
The E-commerce industry can nevertheless be optimized in order to meet a demand for responsibility that is more and more present. This demand is particularly present among the younger generations. Influenced by the actions of Greta Thunberg, for example, young people have organized the global climate strike movement called “FridaysForFuture”, showing their desire to make a difference.
Why should you be green?
Many of the world’s companies have realized that ecology is a key concern for consumers. We can witness the increase in advertising for electric vehicles, for example, which are more promoted by brands. These advertising and communication decisions are notably influenced by legislation aiming at adopting eco-friendly gestures in our daily life.
As mentioned before, the younger generations are particularly sensitive to responsible consumption. Becoming a Green E-commerce allows you to reach these generations of consumers, representing either the current target of your company, or the future.
On top of that, adopting eco-friendly processes allows you to put forward a green CSR. This can serve as a communication lever around your company’s actions. However, be careful not to do greenwashing, which is badly perceived.
How to become a green E-commerce?
In this section, we will introduce you to different trends and processes that will allow you to adopt greener habits. As said before, this will allow you to take care of your CSR and to reach the younger generations.
Offer eco-responsible products
Products that are considered green can be divided into several categories.
First of all, they can represent eco-responsible products. These are considered as such by their methods of production, their methods of routing as well as the materials used, for example. The following list has been made using Green Brands’ listing.
Among the brands offering this type of products, we can mention :
- UHU: the brand offers its ReNATURE program, which consists of reviewing the packaging and production materials of its products. Thanks to this initiative, the brand now uses 98% natural ingredients in the manufacture of its glue sticks, as well as a reduction of between 48 and 45% in the consumption of fossil fuels
- Lavera: this brand offers natural and organic cosmetics. The company uses only 100% green electricity, favors only local products in the manufacturing of its products, proposes a reforestation program with ClimatePartner as well as vegan products allowing the brand to be on the positive list of the PETA association
- PAPSTAR: The company provides disposable products made of 100% renewable materials with its PAPSTAR pure line. In addition to this, the company reuses its packaging boxes after shipment, while benefiting from climate-neutral shipping, in partnership with the logistics provider DPD
Thus, we have introduced you to various companies from different industries. This shows that all types of businesses and products can be more environmentally responsible.
There are several eco-labels issued by authorities around the world. If you want to know more, you can check out the websites of your favorite eco-friendly brands and see what labels are listed there.
Change your delivery methods
Widely popularized by Amazon with its Prime Air solution, delivery by drone is a solution that is increasingly popular with e-retailers.
Considered as more ecological, drone delivery can be done thanks to electric machines. In addition to this green and eco-friendly use, these machines can be recharged with green energy (by solar panel, for example).
Nevertheless, you have to be careful with the model of your drones, as well as the weight of the parcels it will carry. It is possible that a delivery by drone can be more polluting than a delivery by truck, if the package is too heavy. This is especially the case if the electricity to recharge the drone comes from fossil fuels.
However, this delivery method has some disadvantages. Drones do represent a certain investment. On top of that, the maximum delivery capacity per drone is between 3 and 5 kilometers. Finally, there are various legislations depending on your location regarding the use of the airspace.
You can also offer delivery services provided by people on bicycles (companies offer services similar to Deliveroo for parcel delivery), by responsible vehicles (hybrid, electric, hydrogen), …
Abandon same day / next day delivery
Fast delivery, again popularized by Amazon and its Prime service, has a big impact on the ecology.
This delivery method, often highlighted by sellers practicing it, is a strong influence on the conversion rate of an online store. Consumers are even willing to pay more to have access to this delivery service. Today, 45% of consumers expect delivery within 48 hours. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 27% of consumers abandoned their shopping carts because they thought the delivery time was too long.
There are 2 solutions to address this issue:
- You must communicate with your potential customers and explain the reasons for abandoning the same day / next day delivery. As an alternative, you can allow free shipping for the people willing to wait a bit longer for the delivery
- You need to find green solutions to offer this type of service, notably through eco-friendly solutions such as drones, as mentioned above, or various electric or hydrogen powered transports.
Favor the eco-friendly last mile
The issue of last mile logistics has been widely highlighted in recent years, particularly with the emergence of various participative or eco-friendly solutions.
Consumers are more and more sensitive to the ecological issue in their way of buying, which takes into account the product, on the one hand, and the delivery methods, on the other hand.
According to a study by the World Economic Forum, last mile deliveries are expected to increase by 30% in the next 10 years, as the share of e-shoppers grows. In addition to increasing pollution by increasing traffic in cities, especially because of delivery trucks, the vehicles used are often polluting.
Several solutions, presented above, are being put forward to solve this last mile problem. These include drones and electric/hybrid vehicles, as well as robots dedicated to delivery. We have seen the emergence of these robots from the company Starship, which now offers its services in the United States, the United Kingdom and soon on European soil.
Favor recyclable and efficient packaging
Brands are becoming more and more original regarding their packaging, which can be largely optimized to meet the booming demand of green E-commerce.
This problem can be solved by offering ecological, biodegradable and/or recyclable packaging. In addition to that, most of the providers offering this type of packaging propose badges (for example), allowing you to highlight your ecological commitment and to communicate around it for your CSR.
Some companies offer packaging that can be reused later. We find for example companies offering wine, packaging their products in a wooden basket, which can then be transformed into a bottle display. This allows, in addition to offering a second life to the product, to optimize the customer experience thanks to a final post-purchase surprise. Some fashion brands offer the transformation of the packaging into a hanger.
This requires an R&D process, notably to understand the user’s needs, in order to find the ideal transformation for the consumer to keep the package.
Finally, it is necessary to study the packaging dedicated to shipping and adapt it to the products you sell. This allows you to limit the empty rate of your packages, not wasting cardboard.
Propose the rounding of the purchase to make donations
As an e-shopper, you can often find a rounding proposal for your payment during the validation of your cart. This method was already used in stores, and it is increasingly present online.
The objective of the solidarity donation is to round up the payment or to add an extra amount to the basic payment, which will then be used to finance an association.
In the context of our article, we are going to advise you to propose the rounding of payments to ecological associations. Nevertheless, financing any association is a nice gesture. In addition to benefiting your CSR and your company’s image, you are doing a good deed.
It is good to communicate about these actions afterwards, presenting your green project to your consumers. This allows you to justify the expenses made and to show the potential impact you have on the theme you have decided to help, such as planting trees.
Display your environmental impact
The transparency and responsibility of companies is often questioned by consumers. Like environmental issues, corporate transparency is increasingly important to today’s consumers.
This responsibility takes into account the working conditions of employees, the gender balance within the company, …, the social responsibility being particularly questioned in large companies. This is not the only theme dear to potential clients. It also affects the ecological responsibility of the company.
It is possible, thanks to various tools, to make an automatic calculation of the environmental impact of a company, such as its carbon footprint for example. This statistic can then be displayed on the site, allowing to communicate about the ecological processes put in place, with the objective of becoming a Green E-commerce.
It is also possible to make the less ecologically aware consumers more responsible. When they order a product on your online store, you can indicate the estimated impact of the delivery, allowing you to open the eyes of the consumer in a soft way.
Limit the use of paper
This is not only applicable in the E-commerce world. We must limit the use of paper in our professional life, no matter what industry we are in, as well as in our personal life. Paper consumption reached 399 million metric tons in 2020, according to Statista.
For this, you can already adopt, as an online seller, some gestures. You can limit the use of paper in your packages, first of all by limiting the empty rate of your boxes. If the products are basically well packed, there will be no need for paper (or worse, plastic) padding to protect the product.
Finally, this tip can be applied to retailers as well as online sellers including an invoice or receipt equivalent: send these documents online. These regularly end up in the trash, and can be a big source of paper consumption within a business.
The objective is to prioritize digital. Despite the massive use of electricity in data centers worldwide (almost 1% of global demand). It is then necessary to make choices and seek to minimize its environmental impact by finding a balance for your Green E-commerce.
Propose a website in dark mode
The dark mode is particularly popular with mobile users. Who has not been surprised by the brightness of his screen in the dark? This possibility is now increasingly extended to all computer use, including search engines like Google or social networks such as Twitter or Reddit.
In addition to resting the eyes of users, the dark mode allows them to save energy at home. Providing a quality user experience is good, providing a Green E-commerce experience is better. Indeed, the display of a black online store is less energy consuming.
Finally, it saves battery to users who visit your site, so do not hesitate!
Favor green hosting solutions
There are a large number of hosting solutions, adapted to all the needs of the creators of Internet sites. There are a large number of solutions adapted to the demands of e-merchants, taking into account the potential peaks of activity (Black Friday, Christmas, …).
As previously mentioned, data centers (in which some of these hosting servers are installed) are very power consuming. Hosting companies such as GreenGeeks offer quality services and can help you reduce your electricity consumption.
The solution offers hosting for several CMS, whether they are specialized in E-commerce or not. Its ecological approach is structured around the process of buying back the energy consumed by the company as a whole, in addition to planting a tree for each hosting count chosen on the solution.
In order to provide you with an overview of the actions to implement on your online store to become a Green E-commerce, we offer 2 infographics: