With the holidays just around the corner, many of us avoided the chaos of shopping malls and opted for making our purchases online.
If you’re a social entrepreneur or a business owner, you know just how important e-commerce is to your company. But what you may not know is just how important e-commerce is to the environment. It’s been well sited that online shopping, in comparison to shopping malls and big box stores, can really cut down on your carbon footprint. Check out Robbie Reddy’s post, “The Environmental Impacts of E-Commerce – A Greener Way to Shop?” to learn more.
Of course the most environmental and sustainable option is to avoid buying things all together, but options for making e-commerce and online shopping better for our environment is a step in the right direction.
How can we make e-commerce even more sustainable?
Well, we have to look at all of the moving components. To have a sustainable e-commerce site, you must also have a sustainable business. This means, of course, looking at your product (or service). Durability, longevity, purpose and reusability must all pass the sustainability test. The stuff it’s packaged in and how it’s created, designed or manufactured also contributes to the sustainability of your product. Moreover, the logistics, shipping and operations associated with your product can have a direct influence on your product’s level of sustainability.
But what about your company’s e-commerce site itself? What can be done to improve sustainability efforts via your customers online shopping experience?
Consider the following tips for making your e-commerce site (and thus your company) that much more sustainable.
1. Create an offset service charge option at the checkout.
An effective way to offset some of the associated footprints accumulated from the creation and purchase of your product is by providing online shoppers with an optional offset charge.
Be sure to choose a reputable carbon offset project to disperse the funds raised, as the David Suzuki Foundation suggests.
And some companies, like Enterprise Rent-A-Car, match their customers’ carbon offset contributions. This is a great way to show customers that your business is committed to making an impact alongside them.
2. Educate and motivate your customers to be mindful consumers.
On the e-commerce checkout webpage, be sure to ask customers for their email address (and for their consent to send them promotional emails). Not only do you want to have the option to give your shoppers a paperless receipt (As Robbie Reddy suggests), but you also want to establish a point of contact. Inspiring your customers to be mindful consumers is a lot easier when you can engage in direct conversation via email. From there, you can direct them to your website, social media outlets, corporate blog and other engaging content that may help customers feel more connected and committed to the environment.
3. Embrace the lessons learnt and best practices of the circular economy industry.
Learn from the best and do better. Embrace some of the best practices of the circular economy in order to ramp up your sustainability efforts. Consider providing an e-commerce marketplace for customers to resell their used merchandise from your store, sell repair kits (if applicable), blog about how to keep products looking (and feeling) new, provide online donation giveback incentives and offer (up)(re)cycling programs. Patagonia, for instance, has done many of these things well.
4. Scale your impact.
Doing something good? Doing something really great? Fantastic! Now scale it into something larger and resist patenting your e-commerce innovations.
Instead, make it publicly known that you’re committed to making a difference and allow competitors and other businesses to reap the sustainability benefits of your idea.
A business focused on making a social and environmental impact must find ways to scale-up beyond the product itself. The website, and more specifically the e-commerce site, is a great way to branch out beyond the product and make that next step in sustainability.
Has your company launched a sustainably-driven e-commerce site? Have you integrated sustainability into your customers online shopping experience? Be sure to leave a comment below and tell us about it.
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