Sustainability and custom packaging

Why Should eCommerce Businesses Focus on Sustainability?

The pandemic has shifted ecommerce from a common way to shop to, for many people, the only way to shop for many of their products. 

In fact, between 2019 and 2020, online shopping escalated by a whopping 50.5% in light of COVID-19 lockdowns. Last year, one in every five dollars spent came from digital orders in the United States. 

While most brick-and-mortar stores are now back open, many consumers have changed their habits and are more comfortable selecting items on their phone or laptop than browsing through the store aisles.


Arka cosmetic box


That’s great news for ecommerce merchants. But, as customers shift towards ordering items from warehouses instead of bringing them home from the store, it’s important that you focus on sustainability in your business – all the way from the supply chain to packaging, logistics, and even reverse logistics.

Let’s consider a few reasons to go green, and some strategies for building a more sustainable brand.


Why Sustainability Matters


Ecommerce shopping may be more convenient for shoppers, but each package delivered to a customer’s door produces a lot of waste. In fact, Amazon alone generated 465 million pounds of plastic packaging waste in 2019, the nonprofit conservation group Oceana found. 

“Our study found that the plastic packaging and waste generated by Amazon’s packages is mostly destined, not for recycling, but for the landfill, the incinerator, or the environment including, unfortunately, our waterways and sea, where plastic can harm marine life,” said Oceana’s vice president, Matt Littlejohn, in a statement. 

And that’s not true just of custom packaging, but it’s also the case for product returns – many of which simply end up in landfills, if the company doesn’t believe it’s profitable to resell them. At least five billion pounds of waste are generated through product returns, not to mention the carbon footprint of unnecessarily returning the item to the warehouse. 

Ecommerce companies have a social responsibility to think about how their brands are consuming resources, and develop strategies for reducing waste throughout their entire process, through manufacturing to shipping to reverse logistics. Many leading brands, such as the shoe company Allbirds, have mapped out detailed sustainability plans that showcase how their companies are cutting their carbon footprint and embracing sustainability. 

What’s more, sustainability matters to your customers, too: In the U.S., 61% of consumers say that sustainability is an important consideration for them when choosing where to buy products from, and 85% said that they’ve shifted their purchasing behavior towards being more sustainable in the last five years. 

Building a sustainable brand requires a strategy, but it will pay off with a better reputation for your company – and increased sales among consumers who care about the planet.


Steps You Can Take Towards Sustainability


So what can your brand do to build sustainability into your model?


Start at The Source

What materials are you using in your products, and are they ethically sourced? Are you using renewable, or recycled, materials?

Look for opportunities to improve your supply chain’s sustainability by sourcing more materials with a lower carbon footprint, such as organic cotton. The Textile Exchange’s Materials Impact Dashboard 2021 provides data on which types of textile producers are having a positive or negative impact on the earth’s resources. 


Minimize Packaging

Look for opportunities to consolidate your packaging, and minimize or eliminate the use of single-use plastics, such as air pillows and bubble wrap. Consider using recycled cardboard for sending your packages, and don’t use a second box when one will do – Allbirds, for example, uses its shoe boxes as the only custom packaging for its products. 


Use Sustainable Logistics Options

Air freight may be fast, but it has a very high carbon footprint. Consider other models of transportation that can minimize carbon usage, such as freight by sea, utilizing electric or hybrid vehicles, and using telematics data to optimize routes to minimize fuel usage. It can also be helpful to use the services of a third-party logistics service (3PL), which can spread your products around a variety of warehouses throughout the country so that they can be easily and quickly shipped to customers in nearby regions. 


Don’t Accept Returns That Won’t Be Resold

When it comes to customer returns, many companies have a blanket policy of asking customers to send a product back for a refund – regardless of whether the product is destined for resale or a landfill.

That’s a bad strategy, both from a financial and an environmental standpoint, but many brands simply don’t have the technology in place to differentiate between products that make sense to accept for return and those that don’t.

By using an automated returns management solution like Loop, you can set up conditional workflows to determine how to proceed with a customer return. If the item is eligible for resale, you can ask the customer to ship it back or to drop it off at a drop-off location. If not, you can ask the customer to ship the item to a donation center where it can be recycled or given a second life, or ask them to simply recycle the item themselves.

This model helps you completely eliminate your brand’s landfill waste from product returns, and helps you enhance profitability by eliminating expensive reverse logistics when they’re not needed. 


Sustainability is Central To The Future of Business


We know that the earth has finite resources, and consumers, businesses, and government organizations alike are all committed to finding ways to limit the amount of waste they produce and neutralize their carbon footprints. 

By taking proactive steps towards embracing sustainability now, you can claim a competitive advantage that helps you attract ethically-minded shoppers – and ensure that your business is doing its part to help preserve our precious resources.

Arka is a custom packaging company that prioritizes sustainability and creates custom eco-friendly boxes. You can check their custom shipping boxes and mailer boxes that help brands level up and build customer loyalty!

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