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eco friendly Product

Understanding the Environmental Impact of Ecommerce and Exploring Sustainable Practices

By
Rosie Greaves

There’s no doubt that eCommerce leaves an environmental footprint. 

Worldwide eCommerce sales have steadily climbed, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, they experienced an even bigger rise. 

The result? By 2019, eCommerce sales hit $26.7 trillion (up 4% from the previous year). Add to that consumer expectations of next-day delivery, and you have an industry whose transport systems are groaning with strain. 

So much so that in 2021, several retail industry groups representing 65 million transport workers wrote an open letter to the UN heads of state, stating that if eCommerce sales continue at such levels, worldwide transport systems will collapse. Needless to say, the environmental impact of deliveries is significant. 

Not only that, but there's also the CO2 emissions from packaging plastics to consider. Just 14% of the 86 million tons of plastic packaging produced yearly is recycled!

Other environmental factors worth noting include CO2 emissions from shipping and returns, with estimates showing that by 2030, the number of delivery vehicles needed will rise by 36%, leading to a rise of about 6 million tonnes of CO2. 

With so much doom and gloom, it begs the question: Is sustainable eCommerce possible? 

Continue reading as we explore what eCommerce entrepreneurs can do to reduce their carbon footprint. 

But first, let's take a gander at the consumer response to eCommerce's environmental impact:

Sustainable eCommerce: What Do Consumers Think?

Several reports suggest that consumers are waking up to the impact of their shopping habits, with one stating that 47% of internet users worldwide have stopped using products and services from brands whose values don't align with their own, particularly where protecting the environment is concerned. 

A further analysis found that 84% of shoppers felt that a company’s poor environmental practices would put them off a brand.  

The result?

Eco-friendly eCommerce practices are rising, with 75% of businesses making sustainable packaging commitments. 

Not only that, but a few big names, including Nike, Garnier, and Patagonia, now use recycled materials in their manufacturing. Smaller brands often follow suit when influential names like these set the standards. So, we predict these changes will have a positive trickle-down effect - and entrepreneurs using dropshipping are no exception. 

For example, large and small sellers utilizing the dropshipping fulfillment model can commit to using suppliers with robust environmental practices and ethics. 

In addition, they can choose to work with dropshipping platforms that connect them with suppliers closer to their customer base, ergo reducing carbon emissions from deliveries. 

For example, Spocket enables you to filter for products produced by suppliers based in the USA or the EU, and each product listing has a flag on it, representing where the supplier is based. This makes sourcing suppliers closer to your customers a breeze!

 

Eco-Friendly Dropshipping Practices

Now we’ve seen the consumer demand for brands adopting eco-friendly practices, let’s explore how dropshipping businesses can focus more on sustainability:

  • Offer packaging and shipping solutions that are kinder to the environment: For example, work with dropshipping suppliers who offer recycled/recyclable packaging. As for shipping, you could offset your carbon emissions and source suppliers who do the same. Lastly, as we’ve previously alluded to, working with domestic suppliers is an easy way of reducing the distance of your delivery, therefore decreasing emissions. 
  • Source ethical products. Examples of ethical sourcing include products made from recycled materials. Other examples include wares that encourage re-use (rather than being used once and thrown into landfill). For instance, baby products like reusable nappies, tote bags for shopping (rather than throwaway plastic bags), metal drinking straws, and so on. 

Pro Tip: You can find ethical dropshipping products like this in Spocket's product catalog. Just type “eco-friendly” into the search bar to produce these kinds of results. 

  • Have a carbon footprint reduction strategy: This could include using a green web host, working with suppliers with ISO 14001 certificates (these prove they use green methods for their systems), measuring your company’s carbon footprint, and checking how your suppliers do the same. 

Eco-Certifications and Standards

To further demonstrate your commitment to running a green dropshipping business, you could work with suppliers with recognized eco-certifications and make this known on your website. 

Examples of sustainable certifications include:

  • ISO 14001: The worldwide recognized environmental management system (EMS) standard. Companies that meet this standard ensure they’re being proactive in reducing their ecological footprint.
  • The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): This is a leading textile processing standard for organic fibers. GOTS is recognized internationally, and both ecological and social factors are considered. Suppliers need their entire textile supply chain certified by an independent third party to boast this standard.
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified: This certification can apply to products such as tea, coffee, spices, herbs, etc., as well as paper and cardboard packaging. For an ingredient to be certified, it must be produced using methods supporting social, economic, and environmental sustainability and verified by an independent, third-party auditor.
  • 1% for the Planet: Founded by clothing brand Patagonia, this global network comprises thousands of businesses pledging 1% of their gross sales to an environmentally focused non-profit. 
  • Cradle to Cradle: This certification demonstrates your products are designed with sustainability in mind.

The Benefits of Eco-Friendly Dropshipping

Needless to say, adopting eco-friendly business practices is the right thing to do for our planet. However, there are a few other benefits: 

  • Going green has a positive impact on your brand image. As mentioned above, consumers have expressed preferences for sustainable brands, with a McKinsey survey finding that 75% of millennial respondents consider sustainability when making a purchase. Responding to the wants of your consumers proves that you listen to your audience and react accordingly.
  • Consumers might pay more for environmentally friendly products. Research suggests that specific market segments will pay extra for eco-conscious products. For example, 90% of millennials are willing to pay a premium for such products. 
  • Sustainable product sales are increasing. 72% of McKinsey’s respondents said they buy more eco-friendly products than they did five years ago, and 81% said they expected to buy even more in the next five years. It goes without saying that it’s wise for business owners to stay ahead of the curve - and sustainable products are on the up. Now’s the time to get in on this trend. To substantiate this trend further, it’s worth highlighting that the eco-friendly product market is enormous. According to Statista, in 2021, US environmentally friendly product suppliers and manufacturers collectively generated $150 billion in sales!

 

Challenges and Solutions

If you’re entirely green to sustainable eCommerce (pardon the pun!), you may face a few hurdles in implementing new practices. To help overcome said challenges, below we’ll look at some of the most common stumbling blocks, as well as their practical solutions:

Challenge: Difficulty Sourcing Eco-Friendly Suppliers and Products

Solution: Work with a dropshipping supplier platform like Spocket that connects you with suppliers all around the world - there’s a good chance you’ll find suppliers closer to your customers, reducing delivery distances.  

Spocket also provides a range of eco-friendly products from US and EU suppliers. For example, reusable nappies and phone cases made from biodegradable materials. 

On top of that, Spocket integrates with AliExpress via its AliScraper tool. A cursory glance at AliExpress tells us you can access eco-friendly suppliers offering products in a multitude of categories, including natural brushes, reusable bags, and more. 

Challenge: Some Eco-Friendly Products Are Heat Sensitive

Depending on the kinds of eco-friendly products you want to sell, you might have to store them in a temperature-controlled environment - for example, beauty products.

Solution: Work with a dropshipping supplier that takes care of warehousing and shipping on your behalf. That way, you don’t have to worry about managing heat-sensitive products. 

Challenge: You Don’t Know How to Market Eco-Friendly Products

Solution: Use storytelling to sell to customers. In other words, tell them the story behind your products, such as where the ingredients come from, what materials are used, how the products are sustainably sourced, what your suppliers do to align with your eco-friendly values, etc. 

Use this technique to flesh out your ‘About’ page and product descriptions, peppering in keywords to read naturally. Not only does this kind of copywriting engage readers, but when done well, it can be great for SEO, too! 

Challenge: Product Selection

Before leaping in and selling eco-friendly dropshipping products, it’s essential to do your research before committing to your niche. 

Solution: Use Google Trends to pinpoint popular products. Similarly, you can see what’s trending on your chosen dropshipping platform’s product catalog and cross-reference them to see if they’re eco-friendly. For example, Spocket has a ‘best seller’ filter you can use to view its top-performing products. 

Success Stories

To provide some inspiration for your own sustainable eCommerce endeavors, here are a few examples of companies leading the way in eco-friendly dropshipping: 

  • Butter Me Up Organics: Owner Gillian calls her business a “labor of love” that she began after she couldn’t find any products that were sustainable, cruelty-free, toxin-free, and ethically sourced. The result is a gorgeous skincare range!
  • Anchor & Crew: This UK-based jewelry and clothing brand has a fulsome statement on its website that states it exclusively uses recycled sterling silver and gold; where its apparel sourcing is concerned, it is GOTS certified. 
  • Bhavana Bottle: Founded in 2018 by Kelly and Patricia Turgeon, this company sells insulated, engraved, eco-friendly bamboo water bottles as a plastic alternative and donates 3% of sales to eco charities. 

Future Outlook

Last but not least, we’ll wrap this blog post up by looking to the future. What are the trends in sustainable e-commerce? Let’s take a look at a few examples: 

The statistics mentioned above tell us that consumers are looking for and are happy to pay more for sustainable products. Aside from millennials, 75% of Gen Z shoppers consider sustainability more important than a brand name. 

In light of these preferences, it’s predicted that a circular economy centered around manufacturing, consuming, and re-using products to minimize or reduce excessive waste will thrive.

A few big brands are already facilitating this. For example, IKEA plans to be fully circular by 2030 by creating a product buyback and resale system and only creating furniture made from waste materials.

Other trends include the rise in popularity of particular eco-friendly products. For example:

  • Biodegradable phone cases
  • Vegan products such as soap, vegan leather items, vegan makeup brushes, and so on.
  • Plant-based skincare
  • Reusable bags such as tote bags
  • Travel utensils such as bamboo cutlery instead of throwaway plastic
  • Low-light electronics, e.g., laptops and lightbulbs with lower wattage. 

Are You Ready to Embrace Sustainable eCommerce?

Hopefully, this blog post demonstrates the importance of adopting eco-friendly dropshipping practices, namely selling environmentally friendly products, implementing more sustainable business operations, and marketing to consumers keen to easily access more sustainable products.

One of the easiest ways to introduce greener eCommerce into your business is to work with eco-friendly dropshipping suppliers. 

This is where Spocket can lend a hand. Spocket makes it easy to source suppliers close to your customers, which can considerably reduce your carbon footprint. There are also plenty of eco-friendly products listed on Spocket’s product catalog that you can sell on your store!

 

Once you’ve adopted more sustainable practices, tell customers about them. Make it known on your website and marketing collateral that you’re adopting greener practices. It’s crucial to actively demonstrate your commitment to sustainability. 

For example, using recycled packaging, selling products made from natural materials, going paperless, recycling materials, etc. Whatever you’re doing to reduce your carbon footprint, make it public!

That’s all from us, over to you. Are you ready to work with Spocket’s eco-friendly suppliers? Try us for free!

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Rosie Greaves

Rosie Greaves is a professional content strategist specializing in all things digital marketing, B2B, and lifestyle. In addition to Spocket, you can find her published on Reader's Digest, E-commerce Platforms, and Judicious Inc.

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