Updated: May 18, 2022
Sustainable e-commerce is no longer an option, it’s a necessity!
Aligning your Shopify store with your customers’ environmental and social values is an extremely powerful business strategy that will grow strong brand loyalty and increase customer lifetime value (CLTV).
As retail increasingly moves towards the world of e-commerce, there is a proportionate increase in the negative impact online shopping has on the environment. It is clear that sustainability in e-commerce is the future.
'Do my customers even care about sustainability?'
The numbers speak for themselves…
In a survey by U.S. shipping service Sendle, 57% of respondents said climate change had somewhat or fully caused them to reassess their purchasing habits.
71% of respondents said they had set goals to purchase more sustainable products in 2020.
Consumers are keen to shop with sustainable brands and will alter how they shop to reduce environmental impact. Source: Sendle.
A similar survey monkey survey revealed more consumers are opening their wallets for eco-friendly products, as 1 in 3 consumers preferred eco-friendly products.
68% of millennials surveyed purchased a product with an environmental benefit in the last 12 months.
Nearly 75% of consumers are actively purchasing more environmentally friendly products than they did 5 years ago.
Just take a look at the stock market. Morningstar reported that new investments in sustainable funds (which sell shares in companies that are socially/ environmentally conscious) have doubled from 2019 to more than $51 billion.
Sustainable business is one of the most lucrative business sectors.
So the short answer is yes, consumers care about your brand's impact on the planet, with this interest only increasing year on year. Buyers appreciate the importance of sustainability and they are increasingly starting to vote with their wallets. Businesses of all sizes need to adjust their strategies as customers learn more about the effects of climate change and change their buying strategies.
'Why does sustainability matter for my Shopify store?'
As a smaller business, you may be thinking that your environmental impact is inconsequential, however your customers will not see it that way. Opting for more sustainable business practises benefits everyone involved. As we take care of our planet, it can help you stay competitive in today’s market, while sending a positive message of environmental awareness.
Have you thought about becoming a more sustainable Shopify store? What do we even mean by sustainability?
'What is sustainability?'
Sustainability focuses on natural resources and the ecological balance of the planet. When implementing sustainability think of the 3 P’s when it comes to your small business.
Planet: Think about the environment. What are the carbon emissions from your business? How can you reduce the carbon footprint and ecological impact of your small business?
People: What are some of the social impacts of your business practice? Sustainability can also include social responsibility of how a company treats and affects its workers, community and customers.
Profit: This involves the viability and profitability of your business, however, this must not be at the cost of the Planet and People sectors.
Take a look at ShopHub’s Sustainability Guide if you are interested in finding out more.
'OK, I’m convinced- So, how do I make my Shopify store more sustainable?'
Well, unfortunately sustainability isn’t always convenient and requires tough business decisions. You need to ensure you are in it for the long haul to reap the benefits!
The good news? The long term growth and success of your business will be huge! There is no one size fits all method to sustainability, but the same basic principles apply for businesses of any scope from an apparel store to a sweet shop. Here are 10 tips for stores who are looking for some simple sustainability fixes!
9 Sustainability Tips to Implement in Your Shopify Store…
1. Know your brand
What does your customer care about and who do you stand for as a brand?
These are the most important questions to ask yourself as you begin the journey of sustainability. You may not see a similar ROI if your customer base isn't sustainably focused. Perhaps it is time for a rebrand to ensure your customers are sustainably focused and/or reach out to new customers who value sustainability. Or even better, educate your current customers on their impact and encourage them to support you on your sustainability journey.
Understand what your customer wants and assess whether they are willing to pay for creative sustainable solutions to drive your revenue goals. Identify areas where changes will have the most impact and you will be rewarded by the all important customer loyalty!
You will be shocked by how much sustainability can improve your ROI!
2. Source your starting materials sustainably!
Sustainability starts at the source and needs to be embedded into each step of product creation and growth strategy. To be a more environmentally- friendly Shopify store, you need to ensure that your source materials are sourced sustainably.
Ask yourself these questions:
Does your supplier integrate strong ethical, social and environmental practises in the material production?
How much water is used during manufacturing?
How much energy is used during transportation?
Could you source locally?
Can your product be made with recyclable and/ or biodegradable materials?
How much plastic is in your product? Can you minimise this?
Don’t forget to maintain a high quality product with your new interest in sustainability!
Here are some quick solutions when it comes to sustainable sourcing:
Use Fair Trade materials- make sure the materials are manufactured by ethical suppliers that pay their employees fair and liveable wages.
If you have to source from a factory, encourage them to be energy efficient.
Use materials that don’t contain toxic or ozone-depleting substances. (cardboard, paper, mycelium and degradable bubble wrap).
Practise green procurement by sourcing your goods and services locally to support the local economy and cut down on transportation costs and environmental impact.
As you incorporate more sustainable and ethical buying practises you support our communities and the planet. Who wouldn’t love that?
3. Product Packaging
In a similar sense to your product source materials, packaging is a major part of operations in a small business. According to the EPA ‘containers and packaging alone contribute to over 23% of the material reaching landfills in the US’. You can significantly reduce your small businesses carbon footprint by considering these quick steps.
Swap out single-use containers for biodegradable packaging that break down quickly like corn starch, mycelium, wood pulp and seaweed.
Ensure that your packaging does not contain two different types of polymer, as it becomes un-recyclable. If you must use plastic, stick to one type.
The more stylish and useful your packaging is, the less likely the customer will send it to landfill. Perhaps a drawstring bag with your logo on it? Have you ever loved a product's branded packaging even more than the product itself?
Consider buying boxes in more sizes to fit smaller items.
A survey by Sendle found that 64% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a retailer that offered compostable packaging.
Plastic- based packaging is cheap and widespread, but is this the message you want to be sending to your customers when they receive your product? More and more options are available for compostable, recyclable and reusable shipping materials to put a stop to packaging waste.
4. Work with green businesses
A simple tip for your small business is to choose to operate with businesses going on a similar sustainability journey. Analyse your supply chain and consider switching to companies who offer more sustainable processing throughout. For small businesses your supply chain will have a huge impact on your own carbon footprint without even realising.
For example, take a look at your shipping carriers. E-commerce brands can use mailers that offer to recycle packaging. Giving customers the choice gives them the opportunity to act more sustainably and shows that you care too! Shipping vendors like DHL also have carbon offset programs that you can opt into.
The sustainability options are all there, just make sure you keep them in mind as you choose to work with new companies.
5. Sell sustainable products
With the rise of 2nd hand stores and thrift shops, it is clear that customers are interested in using old things for new. Have you considered up-cycling products? Imagine you are a furniture store… you could use up-cycled furniture with a new lick of paint to add character and individuality. Your customers will love it!
Products that clean up the environment
What’s a better way to encourage sustainability than creating products that directly help the environment?
Shopify stores such as Rothys and Allbirds use recycled plastic and polyester that would otherwise have gone to waste to create their products. Why not sell bracelets made from recycled materials, in which the profits go to removing rubbish from the ocean?
Design items that are meant to be reused
By creating a long lasting quality product, your customers will be more likely to not only return to your store but use your product for a long time.
If your product has a short lifespan, encourage customers to send back old products, which can be up-cycled into new products. The Shopify store ‘Girlfriend Collective’ does this by asking their customers to send back old leggings and shorts, which they up-cycle into new products.
In a survey of 6,000 consumers in different continents, 83% believe it is essential that companies design products that are meant to be reused or recycled. 72% said they're buying more environmentally friendly products than they were 5 years ago.
The stats don’t lie, it’s time to be creative with your products!
6. Aim for zero waste to landfill
Careful planning is needed to stop sending waste to landfill. For smaller businesses with no offices, this can be really simple! Keep track of your businesses' waste and think of fun ways to ensure any waste can be reused!
Keep track of your product waste.
Train your staff (and yourself) to be environmentally conscious.
Treat yourself and your employees to a reusable water bottle.
Be careful with paper and reduce the amount of printing. The digital age means that the need for printing is much lower, but ensure you aren’t over printing for the fun of it.
Promote to your store that you are aiming for zero waste to keep yourself accountable to your customers.
7. Use Carbon Offset Services
Sustainability can be overwhelming for small businesses, but by using carbon offsets, there is no need for a headache. Your carbon footprint is a calculation of greenhouse gas emissions that are produced as a result of doing business. Although purchasing carbon offsets can’t let businesses off the hook for finding a way to make their business practises greener, it does help neutralise unavoidable emissions, like those produced by shipping.
How can you offset your Shopify store’s carbon footprint?
Did you know that websites also use energy? It is highly encouraged to offset that energy usage to go carbon neutral. Luckily for you… Shopify's business operations and platform are carbon neutral.
Read more here about Shopify’s online policy concerning carbon offsetting.
How can you offset carbon emissions from shipping?
As an online e-commerce store, it may not be possible to avoid all carbon emissions due to shipping. However, Shopify also offers options for buyers and sellers to offset carbon emissions from their order deliveries.
Offset: Sellers can opt-in to offset shipments of their deliveries.
Shop: Every order purchased through Shop Pay, Shopify will offset all delivery emissions.
Offsetting your other carbon emissions
If you can’t reduce your company's carbon footprint through all the previous mentioned changes, then the purchase of offsets can prove to your customers you are willing to pay the price to be sustainable. There are a variety of carbon marketplaces to calculate and offset your own emissions. Ensure that you search for third party certification and research into projects the investments are made in. A few reputable companies that can help calculate and offset your carbon footprint include Cool Effect and Terrapass.
8. Promote sustainability with a loyalty scheme.
Shopify store owners can use ‘sustainability apps’. One such sustainability plugin is ShopHub… And it's free!
ShopHub is a simple way to show your potential customers that your business values sustainability, while rewarding your customers to be loyal to your store!
Given it costs eight times more to find a new customer than retain an existing one, generating customer loyalty in e-commerce is so important. We’ve already established that sustainability is an important aspect in staying loyal to a brand and Shophub is the only Shopify loyalty program that enables businesses to offer sustainable rewards for their customers like planting trees.
You can find out more about ShopHub on our website.
9. Shout about your sustainable values!
It’s time to be proud of your sustainability goals and let your customers know- they may not even realise unless you tell them! Not only is this excellent marketing and outreach for your business, at a larger scale you are helping to increase more sustainable business practises overall- who doesn't want to do that?
Ensure you communicate your sustainability programme to consumers.
Show the numbers! What is the impact of carbon offsets, or using a product made from recycled materials? Display clear numerical values like number of trees planted or gallons of water saved.
Explain clearly on your Shopify store why your brand wants to be more sustainable to create that strong connection with the customer!
This in turn educates your customers and creates a better world for all of us!
You see, it is not as daunting as it seems and it can be really easy to implement sustainability with these simple tips! Every company has a different level of impact on our planet, but we all need to play our part no matter the size. By taking accountability of your small business’s carbon footprint and taking these simple steps we can do our bit and reverse the effects of climate change.