Sustainable ecommerce has moved from being a checkbox approach to a competitive differentiator driving global growth. In today’s economic landscape, most retail and ecommerce companies realize that sustainable practices are not only the right thing to do but essential to their success. But it needs to go beyond the bottom line.
As organizations with more positive social and environmental credibility have a more robust brand value, these practices have a greater impact by reducing adverse environmental effects, ensuring higher profitability and increased sales and cost savings for customers.
According to research conducted by the World Economic Forum, businesses that adopt “nature-positive” strategies (those that benefit ecosystems and biodiversity) have the potential to increase their yearly revenue by up to $10.1 trillion and generate an additional 395 million jobs by the year 2030. Despite this, a commitment spanning decades is necessary to really incorporate sustainability. Enterprises must implement appropriate ESG (environmental, social and governance) practices that allow them, their partners and customers to strike a healthy sustainability-profit balance.
Achieving a Triple Bottom Line with Sustainable Technology
A resilient economy and sustainable future take into account the “Triple Bottom Line”: social growth (helping people), economic growth (earning profit), and protecting the environment (adopting ecologically sustainable practices). For organizations to succeed in this area of sustainability management, extending beyond meeting economic, legal or regulatory requirements, it must be embedded deeply into the fabric of the company.
Enterprises need to reevaluate what is meant by “success” — both at its most granular level and on a corporate scale. It is important to absorb the principles of environmentalism and social responsibility into business operations. Furthermore, building ethical awareness through marketing strategies and interfacing with consumers can strongly identify a business or brand as sustainable, making it clear that the reason they are in business is to save the planet. Aligning organizational values with environmental and social responsibilities creates a solid relationship between the business and its stakeholders. This can help enterprises enable profitable solutions that have a positive impact on the environment and society as a whole.
It makes sense to adopt innovative solutions that can change organizations in a cleaner, greener, practical and profitable manner as digital technologies advance and take on new forms. For instance, intelligent AI sensors may help in planning, monitoring and optimizing delivery routes or the entire supply chain, reducing labor costs, fossil fuel consumption and raw material use across industries.
In many cases, ecommerce companies can leverage next-generation technologies like 5G, AI, ML and blockchain to monitor, analyze and control CO2 emissions throughout the value chain. The gathered data allows suppliers to integrate, evaluate and manage each product’s carbon impact.
In ecommerce, AI provides a personalized user experience and predicts customer behavior patterns. By incorporating search history and other third-party data from a client, AI and machine learning algorithms can predict this information with high accuracy. With the use of cutting-edge digital tools and technologies such as connected IoT sensors and monitors, cloud-based data platforms and tracking systems using blockchain, they can quantify and track the environmental and social impact along all value chains.
Aligning Profits with Purpose
Many organizations publish CSR or sustainability reports, and executives across industries proclaim their loyalty to the concept. In a recent report for the UN Global Compact, 84% of 1,000 global CEO surveyed agreed that businesses should lead efforts to define and reach new goals on global priority issues. However, only a third of respondents agreed that businesses are making sufficient efforts to solve global sustainability problems. Sustainable business practices go beyond “greenwashing” corporate responsibility or merely riding the sustainability bandwagon for financial benefit.
Problems arise when sustainability is regarded as something separate from profitability. Long-term business success is intrinsically connected to both sustainability and profitability. Every long-term business goal should be a humane one, such as prioritizing the needs of employees and the communities in which the company operates, encouraging risk-taking and innovation.
Some Tried-and-True Principles
A focus on sustainable ecommerce should be enabled by meeting market demands that add business value, meets customer expectations and contributes toward the betterment of the planet while improving brand reputation. “Profit with purpose” is the key theme that will drive ecommerce of the future.
A focus that extends beyond the bottom line is required to ensure that sustainability policies are flexible and can be amended based on environmental, social and economic shifts. It is also important to make sustainability a personal goal and ensure that all parts of your organization are on the path to steady, responsible growth. Enterprises must make sure strategy is aligned with sustainability. Doing so indicates dedication and generates the momentum necessary to make a business resilient.
It is easy to assume that the rise of ecommerce can lead to a lower environmental burden, considering how many operations have shifted online. However, ecommerce can be made more sustainable in the areas of shipping, packaging and energy use, by creating recycling policies and practices, and by optimizing the use of materials and resources.
The environmental crisis demands urgent attention. Anything that affects the environment also affects people and businesses. While many organizations continue to walk on a sustainable path, they need to ensure they don’t act in isolation. For this to succeed, it has to be a collective drive across all sectors, including ecommerce. Our actions and genuine commitment to this planet will guarantee a comfortable human habitat now and in the future.
Lakshmanan Chidambaram is the President of Tech Mahindra’s Americas’ Enterprise Business