10 tips for making your online store more sustainable

10 tips for making your online store more sustainable
Jonas van de Poel
Jonas van de Poel
Content Writer
Posted on
August 16, 2022
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Reducing your carbon footprint as an online store is easier said than done. However, there are plenty of options that you can start working on today. But why would you want to make your web shop more sustainable in the first place?

Almost half of consumers think it is important that companies take action to support the environment (48%) and that sustainability is a high priority for a company (42%). As a web shop, it’s therefore important to take this group into account by investing in sustainability.

To make your life a little easier, we compiled a list of 10 tips, ranging from active CO2 compensation and the use of sustainable packaging material to supporting sustainable initiatives. By applying these tips, you’ll be doing your part in fighting for the future of sustainable e-commerce.

1. Establish a sustainable product catalog

This tip is perhaps the most important of all: In order to make your online store more sustainable you need to start with the products themselves.
Do you know where and how your products are produced? Is there perhaps room for improvement within that process?

Also: are your products single-use or reusable?The more sustainable your product catalog, the smaller the CO2 footprint of your shop.
Communicating this clearly to your customers creates an increase in customer loyalty. You can find inspiration with an online store like Pottle, a brand that creates sustainable products out of recycled bottles

2. Make use of green logistics 

One of the biggest aspects that make online shops less sustainable is the logistics. After all, online purchases must also be delivered. Especially the last-mile delivery in e-commerce is often polluting and ineffective. This can be tackled by offering customers green delivery options during the purchase process, so they can choose for sustainable delivery. 

Keep in mind that it’s important to be clear about the differences in cost and delivery time so the customers are well informed. 

Delivery shame -An increasingly common phenomenon is that a customer can feel shame around the traffic, environmental and other nuisance a package delivery from a web shop can cause. Some of your customers will therefore certainly be open to green delivery options.

3. Reduce returns

A high number of returns can quickly cause an enormous ecological footprint for online stores. If you are serious about making your online store more sustainable, you will also have to reduce the number of returns. 

Therefore, invest in a good return solution. For example, with Returnista you can not only reduce your return rate, but also turn your returns into green returns. Returnista customers see an average reduction in returns of up to 12%.

4. Use sustainable packaging materials

Did you know that 64% of consumers think that online stores use too much packaging material? This implies that less packaging material needs to be one of the first sustainable profits you can make. But the use of truly sustainable packaging is something else than just reducing the amount of packaging you send along.

For example, you can use recycled or sustainable materials, Which can be biodegradable or made of bio-based plastics. It’s also important to use dimensions that suit the size of the product.Coolblue' s new parcel machine is a good example of that. 

5. Introduce active carbon offsets

Each purchase is associated with a certain amount of CO2-emission. Depending on the product, this amount isfairly easy to calculate.  You can put a CO2-pricetag on each purchase. 

Customers could then choose to pay a fee for carbon offsets at checkout. Research shows that consumers are willing to pay 10% extra for sustainable products. Tools like CO2ok and Regreener can even automate this process for you. This way you can actively compensate the CO2 emissions of your shop.

6. Introduce rental options

Circular economies can make a huge Contribution to the environment and the sustainability of e-commerce and more sustainability within e-commerce. As a counterpart to the fast fashion industry, several circular Product as a Service companies have already emerged that rent out products instead of selling them.

For example, at Mud Jeans you can "lease" your jeans for €9.95 per month. After you have used and returned them, they're recycled again. And at a company like Tiny Library you can rent baby products to take into account the rapid growth of your little one(s). 

Are your products easily recyclable and often used only briefly? Introduce a rental option and join the future of circular economy.

7. Offer pre-owned or refurbished items

In the same vein, you can sell pre-owned or refurbished products to offer them a second life. Whether applied on used Macbooks or a recycled pair of jeans, previously used products are often still in nearly perfect shape. 

Vintage clothing stores have been a big success for some time now, so why wouldn't the same concept work for online shops? If you see an opportunity to add pre-owned or refurbished items to your e-commerce offering, go for it. A circular online store equals a sustainable online store.

8. Renew your business premises and commute

Implementing a sustainable strategy doesn’t stop at your web store, but also needs to include logistics and product offering. After all, your ecological footprint is impacted by your entire business operations, even your business location. 

Making your business location more sustainable not only reduces your CO2 emissions, it also lowers your energy bill. You can look into adjusting the energy label of your building and make an effort to encourage employees to travel to work in a more sustainable manner. Commuting (and car-pooling?) can also influence your web shop’s ecological footprint.

9. Reduce paper use

If you have to use paper for your online store, first of all make sure that you use paper with an FSC quality mark. This is an international label that follows strict sustainability requirements. 

Also, make sure you minimize the use of paper as much as possible.Are you still working with paper return labels? Returnista offers agreen return solution which makes putting a paper return label in the box obsolete.

10. Support sustainable initiatives

Finally, you can also contribute to a sustainable e-commerce industry by actively supporting sustainable initiatives such as Steunfonds Duurzaamheid or The Bin. We recommend that you clearly mention on your website which initiatives you support and in which way.

Inform your customers what percentage of their purchase goes to these sustainable initiatives. This gives them the feeling that their purchase is contributing to these initiatives and that they help make the world a little better.

Ready to make your online store more sustainable?

It starts with Returnista's returns software. With this system you stimulate exchanges, lower return rate, eliminate printing paper labels and use green delivery services like Homerr. 

Want to know more? Request a demo on our website.

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