Reduce carbon footprint, and embed circular economy practices in your operation
As with all forms of retail, eCommerce has an environmental impact that is based primarily in the products being sold and in the way they are sold, transported and used.
The right balance
How to sell well online without selling the planet
It’s an awkward truth that the most direct way for an eCommerce operation to reduce environmental impact is to sell less ‘stuff’. The sheer incompatibility of this approach with the growth strategy of serious eCommerce retailers means that for many it is seen as too much of a barrier to even think about.
It doesn’t have to be an impossible challenge, and you can win market share by embedding more sustainable practices in your business. The percentage of customers willing to change consumption habits to be more sustainable is consistently reported as over 70%.
We’re here to advise on the process of transforming the underlying business model so that responsible eCommerce operators win more business by doing things better than the competition.
Product range matters, but restricting customer choice sets a dangerous precedent in a world where customers can make unlimited product comparisons and price is the major choice factor (regardless of what consumers say they are looking for in surveys).
We analyse product range for opportunities to remove high impact product choices where low impact equivalents exist at same or better price and margin. We define what ‘sustainability’ means for your product categories and search the market for sustainable swap outs that don’t damage your reputation for breadth of choice.
Repairability / product for life
Repairability and low obsolescence are key circular economy concepts, and consumers instinctively prefer to buy from brands and suppliers where they have high confidence in the longevity of the product. This is especially true for high value, low frequency purchases. Inbound ‘right to repair’ legislation for the appliances market is an indicator of the direction of legislation aimed at fostering circular economy principles.
We work with suppliers to analyse maturity of product range in this regard, covering access to spares, return and repair processes, refurbish and recirculate processes, and for the most mature retailers, ‘product as a service’ or ‘product for life’ models that put retailers in full control of product lifespan while improving customer retention and maximising opportunities for cross selling.
eCommerce retailers of different sizes have variable influence on the logistics. For large retailers with more options on owned or outsourced warehousing, dropship supply, and delivery, there are more decisions to make. For smaller retailers reliant entirely on dropship logistics and/or third party delivery providers, the decisions are restricting to selecting the best of those.
There are also considerations related to easy to engage with returns, restocking, and management of end of line and returned stock.
Sustainable packaging options have exploded in recent years, in both adoption rate and packaging types. From all-natural mycelium or starch based polystyrene replacements, to fully recycled cardboard, to compostable bioplastics.
Recyclable packaging is still wasteful if not coupled with intelligence on packaging quantity.
Often dubbed the “easy way out” by environmental consultants, offering the ability for customers to offset the impact of their purchase (usually carbon footprint) through tree planting or the protection of existing carbon store habitat remains the most straightforward way to make a difference.
We advocate it as a starting point for retailers rather than a complete solution, and can advise on and implement trusted offsetting plugins for WooCommerce, Shopify and Magento.