Stepping Up Your Ecommerce Sustainability Game

sustainable shipping green truck illustration feature

Focusing on ecommerce sustainability initiatives can help you set your company up for success by focusing on the planet, while also creating more opportunities to boost sales.

A survey we conducted found that 75% of shoppers want their favorite brands to invest more in sustainability, while six in 10 indicated they purchased from a brand in the last six months because of its sustainability initiatives.

On a broader scale, the Securities and Exchange Commission has proposed rule changes that will require all publicly traded companies to publish standardized emissions and climate risk reports starting next year. Therefore, it behooves you to step up your ecommerce sustainability game or risk being overlooked by increasingly values-conscious consumers.

Make a Plan

The first step in ecommerce sustainability is to make a plan to reach net zero carbon emissions, aka carbon neutrality. The foundation of the plan should be a comprehensive evaluation of your carbon footprint.

Competitive research is key to determining where you stand among your competitors. Many ecommerce retailers disclose their carbon emissions, making comparisons fairly simple to conduct. Available tools for making this evaluation include carbon emission reports and carbon calculators.

Once the evaluation is complete, the next step is to set goals for reducing carbon emissions so you can track and manage progress. Such goals may include partnering with companies that have their own sustainability initiatives, identifying ways to reduce environmentally-harmful products (packaging, etc.) or switching over to electric vehicles.

Implement Change

First and foremost, communication is key. Leaders must demonstrate the importance of implementing a sustainability program by constantly and effectively articulating the vision for change and the benefits that will accrue.

Change can be implemented based on best practices. Leaders need to educate themselves on why sustainability is important by taking a holistic view of opportunities and risks. This is critical for communicating with and secure buy-in from all stakeholders.

A strong internal network is paramount for leaders seeking to drive organizational change. Ambassadors from within this group provide insight, support and advice during a time of change and program implementation. They can also lay the groundwork for support so the rest of the team understands and is invested in improving the company’s sustainability efforts.

Although communication is an important part of the mix, actions speak louder than words when it comes to staff buy-in. Senior staff who embody the cause will have better success in garnering support. Leading by example is a recipe for success.

Finally, change happens when you create a culture that promotes and practices sustainability. Sustainable practices must be built into the fabric of the company, so everyone sees the practices are followed from the top down.

Evaluate Your Program

The success of any new program is contingent on its efficacy. Prior to launching a sustainability initiative, leadership should conduct an inventory of all of emissions sources, including power consumption, transportation and waste. Incorporating both direct and indirect sources of emissions will paint a broader picture of the output.

Once the sources have been identified, calculate their emissions intensity from the beginning stages of production through consumption. Take that data to create a baseline for emissions, in order to drive year-over-year comparison of reduction target performance.

Tracking emissions over time also enables you to determine the effectiveness of your emissions reduction efforts. In order to remain competitive, comparisons of carbon footprints offer valuable insights.

Communicate Initiatives and Successes

Consistently communicating sustainability goals and accomplishments throughout the organization fosters transparency and trust. This is especially important as it matters more and more to consumers.

It’s also critical to monitor progress, make adjustments along the way and communicate those changes. However, leaders should also be prepared to address and respond to the (often inevitable) resistance to change. A sustained communication plan that includes social media, newsletters and company forums can build trust and help everyone understand the importance of, and reasons behind, your company’s sustainability initiatives.

The Bottom Line

Values-based shoppers around the world want to buy from brands with sustainability plans in place, that also demonstrate environmental mindfulness in their products and manufacturing. Coupled with the SEC requirements to disclose emissions and climate risks, it behooves ecommerce leaders to implement a sustainability plan – for both the planet and the bottom line.

Andrew Chan is CPO and co-founder of AfterShip