The challenge of a sustainable ecommerce: everyone’s responsibility

min read | August, 2021
Sustainability in all aspects of human life is an issue of growing concern, not only from the perspective of governments but also from companies and individuals.
The challenge of a sustainable ecommerce: everyone’s responsibility

In developed countries in particular, consumers are likely to ask retailers for sustainable options and the use of renewable energy, or even greener transport methods and e-commerce businesses.

In the third episode of UR podcast, we talk to economist Mercedes Comas to learn more.

Let’s start with the concepts: what does it mean to operate a sustainable ecommerce?

Being sustainable means meeting your own needs or those of current generations, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. We are talking not only about environmental sustainability, but it must involve the entire life cycle of products and the concern for social equity and economic development, among other aspects.

In ecommerce, the concept of sustainability can range from business models, means of production, transportation to product packaging. In an attempt to respond to the growing demands of their consumers, some retailers with online sales have been working on corporate social responsibility actions and green approaches in the supply chain.

Transport and packaging are critical aspects of the sustainability of an ecommerce …

They are of the most relevant aspects. In urban logistics, delivering the last mile from warehouse to consumer’s home has become an increasing challenge due to the continued growth of e-commerce. Throughout the transportation process, optimization opportunities are aimed at minimizing the number of shipments and adjusting the trajectory of goods shipped in the first and last miles of delivery.

In some cases, a high frequency of transshipments of certain means of transport with a relatively low load capacity is required, due to the fact that the products are delivered in many cases in highly urbanized areas; Combining these factors is the main task of logistics operators.

In the case of packaging, trends in the industry revolve around the circular economy, which refers to a model in which economic growth does not go hand in hand with the exploitation and consumption of non-renewable natural resources.

How can you move towards sustainable ecommerce?

One part necessarily goes through regulation, through the commitment of governments in terms of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. As regards e-commerce, different governments, particularly in developed countries, have approved regulations aimed at increasing recycling rates and recycled content, and regulations to reduce single-use plastics.

At the level of people, there is growing concern about environmental issues, which is a part of sustainability, as we explained, but there is still much to do in terms of awareness in terms of sustainability and real actions as consumers about what we consume and how we consume it. that we do it.

In a survey conducted by the Toluna company of American consumers, it turned out that almost 40% of consumers are willing to pay more for organic products, particularly in the youngest age group.

Millennials are driving the demand for green products, as well as a sustainability policy on the part of companies. According to a Nielsen study, millennials were identified as being the demographic most willing to pay a little more for ethical and sustainable products: 75% support a more sustainable market in exchange for a slightly higher price.

The role of the authorities, of consumers in their consumer actions and in the pressure on producing companies is clear, but what role do companies play?

In a context where all forecasts point to an increase in the demand for ecommerce due to the advantages in terms of convenience, the role that companies play becomes crucial. The same source that we mentioned, found in its survey that half of the respondents believe that companies that create greener processes have a bigger impact on consumer behavior than government regulations.

The sustainability of ecommerce includes operations at all levels of the company: in each process, in each activity and in each function. A company will not be able to apply one or few changes and declare that it has achieved sustainability. Innovation, ethics and transparency issues are elements that must be present.

Are there company actions that stand out in terms of sustainability?

To take an example from the industry, Amazon and Zalando are taking action. Amazon, for example, plans to have 50% of its shipments carbon neutral by 2030. Zalando, has implemented the possibility for its customers to offset the CO2 emissions emitted by their order, through a small additional payment.

Other actions seen in ecommerce involve the packaging materials, also the combination of several orders in a single delivery.

Other measures go through the optimization of the product catalog itself in terms of sustainability, the purchase of local products and the optimization of manufacturing processes.

The benefits of these policies are not only seen by improving the image. In fact, money can be saved by consistently implementing sustainable management. For example, using the appropriate material and quantity for packaging, implementing energy-efficient software for facilities, as well as green hosting for your website can be other measures.

Much of the actions then go through the policies and strategies of the companies …

That’s how it is. Although in many respects sustainability is an opportunity to boost Commerce, caution is also required in communicating your strategy. If the brand is presented as a sustainable company and this image is actively transmitted in marketing campaigns, all measures must be verifiable and true.

This is what the term “greenwashing” refers to: communicating positive actions for the environment that are partially or totally false. It is preferable to advance one step at a time but with a clear strategy, being sincere and not misleading the consumer. Accurate and transparent information is essential to earn people’s trust.

They are not issues to address in the medium or long term, but require urgent actions and policies …

Last Monday, August 9, a new IPCC report on Climate Change was published. The IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of scientists from around the world convened by the United Nations.

This report is an alarming code red for humanity and makes it clear that this is the limit decade to be able to stay within the limit of 1.5 degrees of increase in global temperature. Humanity has delayed reducing its emissions to the point that we are reaching a point of no return.

Currently, the planet has already warmed by 1.1 degrees Celsius and the consequences are already being seen throughout the world: fires and floods, heat and cold waves, loss of biodiversity, as well as forced migrations and their corresponding humanitarian crises. If we want to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis, there is no time to lose. We must all take our responsibility and rise to the challenge, clearly including the private sector.

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