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Minimising your Environmental Impact on Shopify

Updated: May 18, 2022

In 2021, the UK produced an estimated 424.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e), and 222.2 million tonnes of waste was produced in 2018.

In light of the ongoing climate crisis, many businesses are doing what they can to keep their environmental impact to a minimum - and a lot of customers are specifically keeping an eye out for these decisions.

It is important in today’s world to be conscious of your environmental footprint, as well as taking steps to reduce this. This guide will show how Shopify as a company is taking steps towards decreasing their environmental footprint, as well as highlighting a few key ways on how you can do this for your own business!

Shopify’s steps towards sustainability

Shopify themselves have implemented several initiatives to reduce the environmental impact. These include the Shopify Sustainability Fund, offsetting emissions through services like the Offset app and ShopPay, Shopify Carbon Removal and sourcing renewable power.

Understanding what steps are being taken will be useful to your own Shopify business. A study by SmartestEnergy showed that 77% of customers would prefer to shop with a consumer brand that has adopted positive environmental practices. By owning a Shopify business, you are part of this brand and these steps can be advertised on your website to let your customers know where you stand!

Shopify Sustainability Fund

Shopify has created a fund to support the development of technologies for removing carbon from the atmosphere as a way to invest into our planet’s future. The fund helps companies that could have the ability to reverse climate change fulfil their goals!

Here are some examples of companies benefiting from the sustainability fund!

  • Carbon Cure

CarbonCure manufactures a technology for the concrete industry that introduces recycled CO₂ into fresh concrete to reduce its carbon footprint without compromising performance.

CarbonCure permanently locks captured carbon dioxide in concrete — for millennia. Upon injection, the CO₂ immediately turns into rock. Even if this concrete is demolished, mineralized CO₂ will never leak or return to the atmosphere.

CarbonCure Carbon Removal

  • Running Tide

It is estimated that a quarter of CO2 produced by humans every year is absorbed by the ocean. This is were Running Tide comes in - by distributing microforests with macroalgaes like kelp, the natural carbon sinking is amplified. Once the microforest sinks, the absorbed carbon will either be consumed by deep-sea marine life, or buried in sediments.

RunningTide Carbon Removal

The system requires only ocean currents, sunlight, and gravity - and is therefore an immensely successful way of getting rid of CO2!

Kelp Farm Carbon Removal
Portland Press Herald

The solution is immediate, scalable, durable, and low-cost.

  • Grassroots Carbon

Grassroots Carbon works by employing the basics of photosynthesis. By creating healthier soil, more carbon can be absorbed and stored there. By incentivising better land management, ranchers and farmers are able to adopt regenerative and soil-health forward approaches.

Grassroots Carbon Carbon Removal
Unsplash - @jacobcotton

This technique can store 25% of all the yearly United State’s CO2 emissions!

And these are just a few companies supported by Shopify’s fund - more than 20 companies benefited from the $5 million fund in 2020!

Offsetting Emissions

A considerable consideration should be given to carbon emissions generated by delivery. To set the scene, The Royal Mail produces an average of 217,200t of CO2 annually through delivering 1.2 billion parcels, and every delivery produces 181g of CO2.

Shopify combats this through services like the Offset App and ShopPay.

The Offset App is a way you yourself can get involved in sustainability easily. You can automatically offset delivery emissions from every order you receive to support the Jari Pará Forest Conservation Project.

Offset: Shopify

ShopPay offers a carbon-neutral way for you to pay. The delivery emissions from all customers who use the service will be offset by Shopify - with no cost to the customer. This is in support of the Brazil Nut Concession Forest Conservation Project.

In 2020, the delivery emissions of 137 million orders were offset, amounting to 75,000t of CO2 .

Shopify Carbon Removal

Most countries have set a goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 according to the Paris Climate Agreement. This means a balance between greenhouse gas emissions produced and emissions taken out of the atmosphere. To achieve this goal, emissions need to be reduced heavily in this decade - and removing carbon from the atmosphere is an important stepping stone to help this plan along. By setting up the sustainability fund, Shopify aims to kickstart the market of carbon removal - as many more customers need to take to carbon removal solutions to scale this up to a level that would be beneficial on a global scale.

As an example, the Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend shows a massive increase in sales and deliveries across the world. In 2021, Shopify managed to offset 60,000 tonnes of carbon emissions - which can be equivalated to removing 13,000 cars off the road for a year.

However, while these are good steps to take, sights need to be set on reducing these emissions in the first place.

Reducing Carbon Emissions

The transportation sector is responsible for 8.5 gigatonnes of carbon emissions per year - about a quarter of the global carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion. It is therefore immensely important to work towards reducing these emissions to work toward combating climate change.

While an increasing amount of electric vehicles can be found on the streets, with companies like Amazon recently having rolled out a high number to replace the traditional delivery vans, it is important to consider what electricity is being used and if this is a clean source of energy.

In December of 2020, around 40.2% of the UK’s total electricity production was generated using renewable sources.

The development of a clean electricity grid is essential in allowing a move in the right direction towards reducing carbon emissions produced by deliveries.

Supporting the decarbonisation of the electricity grid and a willingness to pay extra for greener delivery options is how Shopify is doing it’s part in trying to reduce the problem.

Shopify as a Carbon Neutral Company

Renewable power is used for heating, cooling, and powering the company’s buildings and home offices. By signing a power purchase agreement, the development of a new wind farm to power 100% of employee home offices in North America was possible - and this farm is located in a province which heavily relies on carbon-intensive energy grids. In Canada, the energy produced is enough to account for the generated carbon footprint.

Carbon offsets are purchased for any travel-related emissions of Shopify.

All data is stored on Google Cloud, and Google matches all energy consumed with renewable energy.

Therefore, Shopify is a carbon-neutral platform - something you can advertise on your own store to showcase awareness around the issue and increase a feeling of ‘doing good’ amongst your customers.

Shopify Sustainability Report

How you can contribute to minimising your environmental impact

You can find a detailed article on things to think about when working towards sustainability with your Shopify business here, but let’s highlight some key points to get you started.

Use sustainable packaging materials

Sustainable packaging
EU-Startups Sustainable Packaging

In the UK, 5,533 thousand metric tons of paper package material waste was produced in 2020, of which 65.6% was recycled. For plastic packaging material, 2,480 thousand metric tons were produced, of which 47.4% was recycled.

You should therefore pay special attention

to using materials that can be composted or recycled and should think about reminding your customers to recycle the material to prevent excess waste.

This is one of the things you can showcase on your website - as we have mentioned before, customers do care about sustainability when shopping, and this awareness has been steadily increasing and will continue to do so.

Remove excess paper from shipments and package orders efficiently

When buying online, there is usually a packing slip and/or receipt coming with your order when it arrives. Think about sending these digitally - this not only has an impact for the environment, but generally is more consumer friendly, as these can be saved digitally for easy access. This is a whole lot easier than cramming through stacks of receipts to find the one you are looking for!

Equally, pay attention to how you are shipping your orders. Are you using a huge box for a tiny product? Not only is the size of the box excessive - but this usually requires a form of filling material to protect your item, something that can easily be avoided by picking a box suitable for your product.

Carbon Neutral Deliveries

Carbon Neutral Delivery

A survey by Sendcloud amongst Europeans shows 55% of customers consider the environmental impact of delivery important when purchasing online, however, only 13% of people surveyed would pay extra for a more carbon-

neutral delivery.

By using the above introduced Offset App, and enabling ShopPay, you can offer the benefit of 100% carbon neutral shipping to your customers. Like this, no extra costs occur to the customer (and very little for yourself with the Offset app), but you can still benefit from advertising this on your store and gain a better conscience about how you are impacting the environment.

Use sustainable and low-impact resources for your products

Firstly, you will need to research the impacts of the products you are currently using.

For example, if you are selling cotton apparel, it can take up to 2,700 litres of water to produce a single t-shirt. Polyester does not need as much water, but greenhouse gases and other toxic chemicals are created when using polyester, and the material is not biodegradable.

Using organic cotton compared to conventional cotton is already one step in increasing your sustainability - and there are many other options available to choose from, such as hemp. You can take a closer look at these here.

Be aware of your carbon footprint

Carbon Footprint

Without being conscious of how your business is impacting the environment, it’s impossible to make changes towards becoming a more sustainable business.

This could be your shipping, production, powering your offices, or commuting impacts from your employees.

You can then specifically target this and create a plan for reducing your footprint and set yourself targets for the future.

Promote environmental consciousness through loyalty rewards

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!

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, such as planting trees.

You can find out more about ShopHub on our website.

With not only customers increasingly favouring environmentally aware businesses, but this topic gaining increasing importance in securing the future of our planet, focusing on sustainability is slowly but surely becoming a must in the e-commerce sector.

Sustainable Businesses
© ParabolStudio, Shutterstock

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