Sustainability in Ecommerce: 8 Tips for Your Business

From recycled packaging to green web hosting, our 8 easy tips can help you improve the sustainability of your ecommerce business and continue to grow.

Sustainability is a smart and practical goal for any ecommerce business, but it can be difficult to know where to start. Companies need to approach sustainability with business in mind, as environmentally friendly initiatives typically cost more than traditional alternatives. 

However, sustainable practices don’t have to be complicated or eat into your profit – there are many simple changes you can make to help bring in new customers, improve your reputation, and reduce your carbon footprint. 

I recently reworked the sustainability practices for my own business with amazing results, so I’ve put together a quick list of all the ideas that worked best. With these handy tips, you’ll be able to get your ecommerce business up to current sustainability standards quickly and easily.


How Does Ecommerce Impact the Environment?

Instead of customers traveling to a physical store to buy goods, ecommerce brings goods right to buyers’ homes. One of the biggest impacts of this on the environment is the packaging and delivery of millions upon millions of products each and every day. 

Currently, many businesses prioritize cheap packaging to keep their costs down, and to that end, they offer express delivery options to keep their customers happy. This results in astronomical amounts of non-recyclable material finding its way to landfills, and inefficient delivery practices that favor speed regardless of fuel consumption. 

Cheap returns policies also have negative effects, encouraging consumers to buy multiple products, test them out, and send back the ones they don’t need. Not only does this cause even more fuel consumption to cart the products back and forth, but it also creates yet more landfill as many products end up cheaper to destroy than reacquire and resell. 

What Is Sustainable Ecommerce?

Any ecommerce business that works to address these environmental problems is practicing sustainable ecommerce. The term refers to ideas such as recycled and recyclable packaging, climate-neutral delivery options, and responsible returns policies.  

8 Tips to Make Your Ecommerce Business More Sustainable

Here are our top tips to increase the sustainability standards of your business. You can choose a few or adopt them all; whatever changes you can afford will make a difference to the environment and your reputation. 

1. Limit Express Delivery Options

Fast delivery is undoubtedly convenient for consumers, but the cost to the environment is high. By prioritizing speed, shipments become smaller and more frequent, increasing the number of trips and amount of CO2 output. 

One way to combat this is to encourage slower delivery options that allow you to collect more orders into larger and fewer shipments. The principle is the same as carpooling – more people in one car results in fewer cars on the road. 

This is one sustainable practice that isn’t inherently more expensive than the alternatives, so it’s possible to offer this slower delivery option for less cost to encourage consumers to choose it. If it’s viable for your business, you can even stop offering express delivery options completely on some of your products, just make sure you communicate your reasons for doing so.

2. Switch to Greener Shipping Services

As well as limiting the number of individual shipments you make, you can also switch to services that offer carbon-neutral shipping. These companies calculate the emissions for delivery jobs and offset them by contributing to various climate projects. 

Many also use low-emission or zero-emission vehicles to limit the effect on the environment. These shipping services will likely cost more money than traditional options, so it will result in a more expensive delivery cost for your customers. 

A great shipping tip to encourage buyers to spend the extra money is to openly share some of the cost – for instance, offering to cover 25% of customers’ delivery costs if they choose the green option. Many consumers are already happy to pay more to help the environment, but knowing that your company is contributing too could help convince even more people. 

3. Use Sustainable Packaging

The cheapest packaging types for most companies to use are plastics and foams that are non-biodegradable and difficult to recycle. To improve your sustainability, switching to cardboard and recycled packaging is one of the most impactful changes you can make.

You can source your packaging from eco-friendly companies that offer multiple types of recycled and recyclable outer packaging, inner packaging, and even recycled sealing tape. Many also use sustainable ink alternatives such as soy ink or algae ink. 

Make sure to label your sustainable packaging to show customers that you’re making an effort – printing silly jokes, insightful statistics, or fun facts about the impact of your sustainable packaging can also help draw attention and raise awareness. 

4. Work to Reduce Returns

Designing a sustainable returns policy can be a little challenging, since you effectively need to offer a service that covers everything customers need to be satisfied while at the same time encouraging them not to use it. 

Returns are an inevitable part of ecommerce, and consumers do need to be able to return items that are broken or damaged. However, the culture of buying multiple products to try out while planning to keep only one is wasteful, and this is one thing you can aim to minimize. 

One approach is to be clear and honest with customers about the environmental impact of returns and your desire as a company to reduce your footprint. Some companies even offer a discount for customers willing to waive their right to return. 

Another approach is to reduce the likelihood of products failing to meet expectations by improving product information, descriptions, and images. The more information you can provide about your product, the more confident customers can be about their purchases. 

5. Offer Digital Receipts 

Including paper receipts with ecommerce products is common, but arguably very unnecessary. Since the purchase has been recorded in your system and confirmed with the buyer via email, it’s easy to forgo the paper receipt in favor of a digital version.

It’s always important to provide convenient services to customers, so rather than stopping paper receipts completely, it’s often better to keep it as an available option. However, you’re likely to find that a good deal of consumers choosing to shop through ecommerce will be perfectly happy with an e-receipt. 

Making this change can greatly reduce the amount of paper and carbon ink your company uses and significantly contribute to your sustainability standards. 

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6. Consider Green Web Hosting

Although an online shop may seem greener to run than a physical location, there’s still a carbon footprint attached to online stores due to the energy used to host and view them. One way to help mitigate these emissions is to work with an eco-friendly web host.

These companies use carbon offsetting and run data centers with renewable energy to lower the impact of web hosting on the environment. This can be an easy way for your business to improve its sustainability because it doesn’t cost a lot of extra effort or money, and your contribution can be showcased to your customers right on your homepage. 

7. Design Products That Last 

An important way to contribute to sustainable ecommerce culture is to avoid playing a part in throwaway consumerism. Intentionally designing products with a limited lifespan to ensure the need for customers to rebuy is currently very common. 

It’s not easy for a company to opt-out of this manufacturing style, because it can be difficult for companies selling a product that lasts 15 years to compete with the sales of other companies whose products only last two years. 

On the bright side, businesses that make the effort to create high-quality products and make a significant contribution to the environment can receive a lot of positive attention for doing so. It’s both eco-friendly and gives value to the consumer, so this behavior can receive a lot of support.

8. Start a Resale or Trade-In Program

Offering a resale or trade-in program is particularly common in the clothing industry, where brands and stores encourage customers to send back old clothes to receive a discount on new ones. You’ll also see it a lot with computer hardware like phones and laptops.

These programs do cost money since they include giving out discounts and possibly eating the costs for customers to package or send back old products. However, if your business is large enough to afford this, it can be an effective way to market yourself as a sustainable company. 

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The Bottom Line

Improving your sustainability practices is great for the world and your reputation, and with so many simple options available, there’s no reason not to start making changes today. By keeping your budget and profit margins in mind, you can create policies that effectively balance environmental responsibility, customer service, and the growth of your business. can offer you a secure payment system and green invoicing options to support your business and its sustainability efforts. With quick setup and approval, you’ll be ready to safely accept credit card payments in no time. Click here to create your account now!


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Why is it important for an ecommerce business to be sustainable?

Taking steps to run your business sustainably is important because it’s the right thing to do for society and the planet, but it’s also a smart move from a business perspective. 

Many consumers are becoming more interested in contributing to sustainable practices, so you can build a reputation and attract new customers through developing and marketing eco-friendly policies.

What is a good example of sustainability in ecommerce?

Some of the most common good examples of sustainability in ecommerce are recycled or recyclable packaging and carbon-neutral shipping options. These practices work together to reduce the emissions created when we buy products online and have them delivered to us.

What's the most sustainable way for an ecommerce business to ship orders?

The most sustainable way to ship orders combines multiple strategies to minimize your carbon footprint. Firstly, by waiting for more orders to come in, you can organize fewer, larger shipments and reduce the number of trucks on the road. You can combine this with green shipping companies that practice carbon offsetting and use low-emission vehicles.

Meet the author
Monica J White
Monica is a journalist with a lifelong interest in technology. She first started writing over ten years ago and has made a career out of it, with a special focus on fintech. She enjoys the challenge of explaining complex topics to a broader audience.
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