10 Feb 2023
Sustainable Development Guide: How to Make Your eCommerce Site Greener
At Novatize, we’re motivated by our belief that the preservation of the environment has to stop being put in the background. We’ve established a sustainable development committee aimed at governing our internal habits, but also making our customers and our community aware of the importance of rethinking our consumption and production habits.
First of all, it’s essential to admit that eCommerce is a polluting sector, and that none of us can really boast of helping to save the planet by pursuing our activities. We strongly recommend avoiding greenwashing at all costs—that awful practice that some organizations engage in of presenting themselves as eco-friendlier than they really are. However, we believe that every brand and company that sells online must minimize its footprint and its harmful effects on the environment.
With that in mind, here is our sustainable development guide to encourage you to adopt good practices that will help reduce your impact on the planet.
How to make your shopping experience eco-friendlier
With your platform
First of all, when choosing your eCommerce platform, make sure that it shares your environmental values and that its actions are concrete proof of this.
Among others, Shopify devotes at least $5 million each year to the most impactful and promising technologies and solutions to fight climate change on a global scale thanks to the Shopify Sustainability Fund 1.
The platform is also committed to achieving a negative carbon footprint. It can currently claim to be carbon neutral in terms of both its data centre and its operations.
With your return policy
Offering free and simple postal returns and exchanges may seem like the best solution when it comes to customer service, but it also encourages overconsumption and excessive shipping. Although it’s relatively easy for customers who buy online to order two sizes of the same product and return the one that doesn’t fit, it’s even simpler to know what the ideal size will be beforehand, at first glance.
To do this, properly develop your product sheets, your sizing guides, your tips and tricks, your frequently asked questions, and all the tools specific to your site that aim to make the customer experience easier. That way, your customers will be properly equipped to choose the product and the size that suits them, and they won’t have to return or exchange their purchase, which creates unnecessary polluting shipping 2.
By reusing our products
It’s not impossible for your customers to get tired of your product well before it has given everything it had to offer, given the dizzying pace of trends and new technologies, as well as the constantly changing needs of consumers. This desire for novelty isn’t necessarily to your disadvantage; on the contrary! Your customers might want to buy your products with seasonal patterns or in an improved formula or an enhanced version, for example.
There are many ways—from the infinitely simple to the highly elaborate—to give a second life to these products that still have many years ahead of them. Among others, Oraki customers have a Facebook group where they can sell, buy, or exchange used Oraki products. For their part, Patagonia has developed Worn Wear, a complete platform independent from the rest of their website, to collect and resell pieces that are previously worn and in good condition. In addition to helping to reduce the production of new clothing and the accumulation of textile waste in landfills, the brand makes a profit twice on the same piece of clothing.
How to make your promotion marketing eco-friendlier
Short-lived promotions and surprise discounts encourage your customers to overconsume. As a company that sells online, you may be torn between your values of responsible production and consumption and your desire to take advantage of an effective promotional strategy. During busy sales times (such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Boxing Day, and ends of season), try to approach the opportunity from a new angle.
Instead of offering a discount on a product, it would be worthwhile to join forces with a cause that gives back to the community. For example, Solios presented a limited-edition watch in collaboration with the Rainforest Trust foundation, which has the mission of protecting threatened tropical forests. For its part, the Maple3 online store offered a case of maple sap to the Moisson Québec food bank for each ordered received during a defined period.
However, a liquidation strategy could have a sustainable justification if it promotes the sale of products that might be wasted. For example, Maguire offers discounts to its customers on its imperfect products, demo items, and even second-hand products. At the same time, the company limits its losses and the buyer enjoys an attractive discount.
How to make your packaging eco-friendlier
The way you package your products before shipping is undoubtedly the easiest aspect to control and the simplest to make eco-friendlier within your marketing process.
When hearing about eco-friendly packaging, we first think of using ecological, recycled, or biodegradable materials. Among these, packaging made from paper, cardboard, bioplastics, biodegradable plastic, and plant fibres, as well as all reusable packaging, is also recommended 3. Although this is correct, many more aspects may come into play. Are you minimizing the amount of waste that your packaging produces? Is your package as small and light as possible? Do you save your ink, and is it eco-friendly? Are renewable energy resources used and promoted in the creation of your packaging products? Are your materials safe for consumers and the environment throughout their life cycle 4 5 ?
Choose the eco-friendly packaging supplier that suits you best according to their values, customization options, and geographic location (the closer they are to your business, the better it is for the planet!).
For cards, envelopes, boxes, stickers, adhesive paper, wrapping paper, and more, companies such as noissue and The Better Packaging Co. are excellent supplier options. Need to fill your delivery box to protect the products inside? Consider bags filled with air or biodegradable packing peanuts, the perfect alternative solution to those made from styrofoam 6.
How to make your delivery eco-friendlier
An eCommerce company conscientious of limiting its GHG production should make certain strategic choices regarding its delivery.
First of all, it’s a good idea to offer your customers green delivery options. Among the formulas currently offered, there is bicycle delivery or electric delivery from local and specialized carriers such as Livraison vélo MTL.
Secondly, it is recommended to offer your customers the option to offset the carbon footprint of their order. A technological solution such as the one from EcoCart added directly to the payment stage lets you make the transaction carbon neutral with the help of a financial contribution.
On the other hand, it is encouraging to see that some major international carriers are beginning to transition to a sustainable service offering, such as DHL, Go green. There is still a long way to go, but there is hope!
How to be eco-friendlier on marketplaces
Again, far be it for us to claim that giants like Amazon have positive impacts on the environment. However, here are some tips to reduce your environmental impact if you want to sell on marketplaces.
By reusing our products
If you use the delivery services offered by marketplaces, such as Amazon Prime, your products will most likely be overpackaged. If you opt for FBM (Fulfilled by Merchant) delivery and you personally manage the delivery of your orders, it will be even easier for you to determine the quality and quantity of the packaging that you wish to use.
With Climate Pledge Friendly
If you sell your products in the United States and they qualify under one or more terms of the Climate Pledge Friendly, you can obtain Amazon’s eco-friendly certification and display a badge on your corresponding products.
You can also receive Amazon’s Compact by Design certification for your products if the ratio between the size of your product and the amount of packaging meets reasonable standards. This is another way to encourage the reduction of unnecessary packaging and material waste and thereby limit the amount of waste that we produce, both as a company and as a consumer.
With eco-friendly marketplaces
Certain specialty marketplaces offer detailed environmental plans and make sure to be proactive in order to generate change for the better. Among others, Goodee is a B Corp-certified marketplace that works with the 1% for the Planet program. For its part, Ample + Good only accepts products and companies that respect its ethical values. These requirements are both environmental and social in order to cover all aspects of sustainable development. Finally, Samara & Co is a Quebec-based platform with the mission of promoting and selling a wide range of eco-friendly products from Canadian brands.
Caution is essential as soon as you start talking about the measures and commitments that your brand is taking to be eco-friendlier. No eCommerce company can boast of helping to protect the environment, since each product manufactured, marketed, and shipped is a direct source of pollution. As mentioned earlier, by claiming otherwise, you could be accused of greenwashing, which could damage your brand’s reputation.
However, we hope that these few tips and solutions will allow you to continue to make your online business flourish and offer what only your brand has, all while minimizing the impact you have on the planet!
At Novatize, we are both eCommerce experts and fervent defenders of sustainable development. Are these subjects also at the heart of your business? Do you need advice? Contact us!
1 – https://fr.shopify.ca/a-propos-de-nous/environnement
2 – https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/ecommerce-sustainability/#8-steps-to-move-toward-sustainable-ecommerce
3 – https://www.shipbob.com/blog/eco-friendly-packaging/
4 – https://www.rooland.com/what-is-eco-friendly-packaging/
5 – https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/sustainable-packaging/#4-steps-to-transition-toward-eco-friendly-packaging
6 – https://greenbusinessbureau.com/green-practices/products/packaging/8-eco-friendly-packaging-alternatives-for-your-businesss-shipping-needs/