Sustainable Business Practices for E-Commerce Businesses
How can businesses make sustainability efforts more visible? What are ways to incorporate sustainable business practices into your business?
According to FedEx’s 2023 E-Commerce Trends Report, “82% of shoppers want brands to embrace sustainable practices, and Gen Z is leading the charge.” But exactly how can business owners make sustainability efforts more visible? What are ways to incorporate sustainable business practices into your business operations, and how can you talk about your sustainability initiatives in customer-facing communications? In this webinar, experts share advice to help you understand how to set sustainability goals, put those goals into operation, and effectively share your sustainability journey with your customers. This webinar was powered by FedEx and Accion Opportunity Fund.
Meet the Experts
Perrin Crews is the manager of Corporate Social Responsibility at FedEx and has been with the company for five years. In this role he leads a team responsible for sustainability reporting and disclosures. He also coordinates enterprise efforts across sustainability impact teams in support of the FedEx goal of global carbon neutral operations by 2040.
Brenda Rios is the visionary force behind Studio Tails. She is weaving her passion for sustainability and love for animals into a brand that stands as a beacon for conscientious pet care. Brenda’s journey is more than just creating another dog gear brand; it’s about pioneering a sustainable lifestyle for pet owners. Studio Tails isn’t a trend; it’s a movement.
What does environmental sustainability mean?
There are many different definitions of environmental sustainability, but in general, sustainability means the responsible and efficient use of resources to preserve environment for future generations. This includes everything from recycling and composting to energy efficient appliances and solar panels.
How do you set goals around sustainability?
- Inspiration: Ask yourself, what is your mission as a business? What are your business values? Examine how your mission and sustainability can align and complement each other. What are other companies doing? Can you draw inspiration from them?
- Aspiration: Now that you know what you want to do, what goals can you set around sustainable business practices? What do you aspire to achieve? Consider your long term goals around sustainability. Do you want to be carbon neutral by a certain date? Do you want to reduce waste by a certain percentage over the next 5 years? Writing longer term SMART goals around sustainability can help you stay accountable to those goals.
- Implementation: How do you actually put those goals into action? Break the goals you aspire to into smaller goals over the short and medium term. What are the first small steps you can take towards achieving those goals?
What are some ways to “go green” in your business?
Now it is easier than ever to make your business sustainable. Incorporate sustainability into your brand and make it a core value of your business.
- Sustainable business practices can be as simple as Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
- Transition from paper to digital to reduce your paper waste for marketing and informational materials.
- Think holistically about your packaging materials and use only recycled and recyclable materials for everything from the box you ship your product in to the order sheet that goes in the box and the label on your product.
- Incorporate customer education around recycling shipping materials and even your product.
- Consider purchasing carbon credits to offset your environmental impact.
- Look for green and plastic free alternatives for all product packaging components. For everything from labels to bubble wrap, there are more sustainable options.
- FedEx is a great option for more eco-friendly shipping. They also offer a packaging lab that can help you determine the right sustainable packaging options for your business
- Consider allowing pick-up for local sales to reduce the environmental impact of shipping and packaging.
- Evaluate the durability of your packaging and your product. Consider the durability that you require when you ship your business as well as the potential for re-use of product packaging. Consider the life-span of your product. Are there ways to make it longer lasting?
What are some top tips for sustainable business practices?
- Make sustainability part of your business decision-making criteria. When choosing a manufacturer, upgrading an appliance, or building a marketing strategy, consider the eco-impact of your decisions.
- Everyone is at a different stage in their business journey. Think about what makes sense for you and your business at this time.
- You don’t need to make your brand 100% sustainable overnight. Radical change is difficult for any business. Take it one step and one change at a time. The goal is progress, not perfection.
- Engage with your local community and participate in green or sustainable activities like beach clean-ups. You can even partner with other local organizations to support conservation and environmental sustainability in your area.
- Partner with other sustainable or green brands on marketing giveaways or product collaborations to increase your exposure and market share.
- Start small and keep it simple at first. You can grow your sustainable practices from there. You don’t need to re-invent the wheel (or your business practices) overnight.
What are the best resources for finding green products or business solutions?
- Get inspired by your favorite green companies, like Patagonia for example. See what they are doing with their packaging, marketing, and customer communications.
- Don’t be afraid to ask other business owners for recommendations for their preferred green products or solutions.
- Google is your best friend. Research eco-friendly packaging or eco-friendly fillers and review the results.
- Talk to your customer service representative at your preferred shipping company to find the right, sustainable shipping solution for your business.
How do sustainable business practices help your business’ bottom line?
What is the business benefit to being green or eco-friendly? Can going green really increase your profits? Going green helps your business in three main ways:
- Sustainable business practies allows your business to stand out from the crowd of your competitors. Eco-consciousness is becoming a deciding factor for many consumers.
- Sustainable products can actually be less expensive than non-sustainable alternatives, reducing expenses and increasing profits.
- Being green also improves your marketing messaging and promotes brand loyalty. Many customers specifically look for eco-friendly brands.
Don’t sustainable business practices make it more difficult to grow your business?
The short answer is no. Maintaining a sustainable business practices as your business grows does often require more research and thought than less sustainable business practices, but it’s worth it in the long run. There are many sustainable, affordable options out there, with more coming every day.
As consumers become more eco-conscious, sustainable business practices can also help your business to grow. Green business practices can attract a robust and loyal customer base.
How do you communicate with your customers around your sustainable business practices?
Integrate sustainability into the value proposition of your business, just like the quality of your products, the price, or the problem they solve for your customer. Sustainability should be infused into your brand, not just layered on top of your other messaging. Talk about how you are moving your industry forward by taking steps towards sustainability.
Make sustainability an additional part of your social impact strategies and communications. In addition to a focus on sustainability, StudioTails donates 10% of their profits to support rescue animals.
How can I measure how sustainable my business is?
Whether you want to evaluate how sustainable you are so you can set measurable goals or you want to communicate about your sustainability practices in a meaningful way with your customers, measuring sustainability if important.
- Review all aspects of your business from your website to packaging to production waste to carbon neutral shipping. Keep track of these metrics over time and work towards improving them.
- Know what your partners are doing in terms of sustainability and ask them questions about how they can make their business (and yours) more sustainable.