Rise of Sustainability Within E-Commerce Businesses

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For years it seemed that convenience was the sole priority of consumers when it came to e-commerce fulfilment. However, whilst the demand for speedy deliveries continues to rise, consumers are also becoming increasingly aware of the need for sustainable packaging within e-commerce.

A recent report by Getty Images revealed that 48% of consumers are mindful that they should care more about the environment but also continue to prioritise convenience.

These findings reveal the split minds of today’s consumers. With so many becoming progressively aware of sustainability but also favouring prompt order fulfilment, e-commerce businesses are now expected to provide the best of both worlds.

We discuss why e-commerce businesses should prioritise sustainability and the steps that can be taken to become eco-friendly.

Why should e-commerce businesses be more sustainable?

We are on the verge of an e-commerce revolution, with consumers becoming more in tune with how their shopping habits are impacting the planet.

The global concern for the environment became apparent recently when Sir David Attenborough became the fastest person to reach 1 million followers on Instagram. The naturalist has placed greater emphasis on ‘the world being in trouble’ over recent years, and people are listening.

The leading environmental concerns within e-commerce primarily involve packaging and the minimisation of waste. Consumers are now more critical of e-commerce businesses that use unnecessarily large packaging for products and those that opt for non-recyclable materials.

As a result, e-commerce businesses have started to recognise this growing phenomenon and have begun taking the necessary steps to become more sustainable. An environmentally friendly approach must be adopted if brands want to meet the evolving priorities of their consumers whilst positively contributing to the environment.

How can e-commerce businesses become more sustainable?

There are several ways in which e-commerce businesses can take steps to become more sustainable when it comes to order fulfilment. The focus should primarily be on providing more responsible packaging solutions.

Sustainable Packaging

It’s essential that, where possible, e-commerce businesses opt for sustainable packaging materials. Whilst there is no distinct definition of what constitutes ‘sustainable packaging’, the ethos is to offer high functioning materials with the ability to help protect the environment. There are several material options which are easier for consumers to reuse and recycle:

  • Paper and cardboard – the most popular choice amongst e-commerce businesses; these materials are easy for consumers to recycle. Cardboard and paper are also incredibly versatile, available in a range of sizes to suit a variety of products. This material is also lightweight, so ideal for cutting down on shipping costs.
  • Bioplastics – sourced from plant-based materials, bioplastics produce 70% fewer greenhouse emissions compared to traditional plastics and biodegrade much more quickly. Whilst they are ideal for composting, they must be recycled separately from conventional plastics as contamination can occur.
  • Biodegradable plastics – these are traditional plastics that can be degraded by microorganisms. However, they contain petrochemicals that can leave behind a toxic residue. As a result, they are not suitable for composting.
  • Plant fibres – more companies are opting for plant fibre-based packaging such as cotton. Plant fibre-based packaging is ideal because it can be used to create gift bags to wrap items but is also easily reusable.

Reduced Packaging

With consumers more critical of wasteful packaging, it’s crucial to ensure that a product is packaged appropriately. A large box used to send a small item is unnecessary, unfit for purpose and is ultimately costlier!

It’s no secret that consumers love luxurious looking packaging. As a result, many companies go down the route of excessive, over-packaged products. It is still possible, however, to maintain an elegant edge to your packaging without offloading unnecessary materials to your customers.

E-commerce companies are starting to steer away from cellophane and are opting for tissue paper as an alternative. Materials such as this give brands the ability to maintain a luxurious feel whilst also being sustainable.

To avoid further waste, many companies are now using envelope mailers rather than cardboard boxes for shipping smaller items. Businesses must always assess the functionality of their packaging rather than mindlessly reaching for unsuitable materials out of habit.

Outsource to a responsible order fulfilment service

With so many factors to now consider when it comes to order fulfilment, many e-commerce businesses are choosing to outsource.

Outsourcing your order fulfilment to a company that prioritises sustainability and efficiency means that the top priorities for your consumers will consistently be met.

E-commerce businesses can have the peace of mind that their order fulfilment is being conducted responsibly and allows for more time to be spent on other areas of the company.

E-commerce sustainability summary

All in all, e-commerce businesses must be able to meet the evolving priorities of their customers whilst doing their bit for the environment. Companies that can provide order fulfilment which is both efficient and sustainable are likely to develop a base of loyal customers as they offer a convenient yet environmentally conscious service.

As the issue of sustainability continues to become a greater priority for consumers, e-commerce businesses must ensure that their shipping and packaging reflects this growing phenomenon.


If you would like to discuss sustainable package options for your business, please call 0121 326 7368.


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