You might be surprised at the answers of business owners if you asked them to list the most pressing issues facing their company right now. Take, for instance, the takepayments survey that asked over 1000 UK business leaders the exact same question. Although you might expect finances, technology, and recruitment to be their top concerns, 22% of respondents viewed environmental and sustainability issues as more important than the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.
Digital consumers are also more concerned with sustainability than ever, despite being still scarred by the pandemic’s effects and facing increasing warnings about a climate crisis. Globally, 60% of consumers consider sustainability an important factor in their buying decisions. How can online businesses reduce their environmental footprints and increase their sustainability in 2022 and beyond in an eco-conscious world?
Set achievable goals
Make sure that you have clear, achievable targets before you start a sustainability strategy. If you don’t know how or if it is possible, there’s no benefit to committing to net zero emission by 2023. It’s better to make small, incremental changes that reduce your environmental impact than a full-blown plan that promises the moon but fails to deliver.
You can’t achieve sustainability overnight. Don’t try to do it all at once. You should think about the areas where you can make the most gains, or, more precisely, the largest losses, and then tailor your strategy accordingly. You might think that redesigning your packaging is a more expensive, long-term goal. However, empowering your team to work remotely offers a short-term win. As they say, every little bit counts.
The rapid adoption of remote technology has encouraged a shift towards home-based work for many businesses. Others advocate hybrid working (where office and home working overlap). Many digital teams have the freedom to work from home, which could reduce their carbon footprint by as much as 80%.
Remote working can only be achieved using cloud-based technology. This is because it allows employees to access company files from anywhere. The upside is that cloud computing could actually be 98% more environmentally friendly than traditional on-premises solutions. Cloud and SaaS hosting providers like Cloudways offer fast, reliable hosting plans that areenergy-efficient.
Did you know that one in five products bought online are returned? Online fashion is a prime example of this phenomenon. Bracketing, which is buying multiple copies of the same product in order to return at least some of it, is driving higher returns. While a straightforward, easy-to-return policy can increase conversions and improve buying confidence, it comes with significant environmental costs. More returns mean more delivery trucks, while more unwanted purchases end up in the landfill.
Optimizing product content (by including size guides and multiple zoomable photos, for instance) is one way to reduce return rates. But you could also follow the example of Patagonia’s outdoor clothing brand Patagonia which actively discourages returns using its Worn Wear initiative. This puts a strong emphasis on care and repair, which extends the product’s life span while reducing returns, trimming waste, and reducing CO2 emissions.
A majority of consumers believe it is important for products to be packaged in recyclable packaging. Businesses should make sustainability choices in how they package their products. Let’s face the facts, we all have signed for delivery of small items in boxes large enough to hold a small canoe. ).
Non-recyclable, wasteful packaging can’t be easily disposed off and is inherently hazardous to the environment. Therefore, aim to reduce packaging and move towards recycled (and recyclable!) packing materials. Amazon’s Frustration Free Packaging initiative was launched to reduce waste and ensure damage-free deliveries. It has decreased the average weight of outbound packaging by 36%, roughly equivalent to 1 million tons.
Offer green shipping
Shipping services are under increasing pressure due to our shift towards online shopping. This is an inevitable side effect. The impact on the environment can be severe as more drivers are needed to deliver fast deliveries. Many consumers will pay more to have eco-friendly deliveries because they are committed to making responsible online purchases.
FedEx, with its EarthSmart initiative, is one of many carriers that participates in “green” shipping programs. This means their vehicles and facilities are subject to strict environmental sustainability standards (such as hybrid or electric delivery trucks). Your online store will have a lower indirect environmental impact if you partner with a shipping company that uses sustainable practices.
Reduce your impact
While carbon emissions are inevitable, you can offset their impact by making a CO2 savings elsewhere. Many businesses “give back” by investing in renewable energy projects and conservation activities, which helps to reduce their cumulative environmental impact. An organization that claims they are “carbon neutral” (often called “net zero”) doesn’t necessarily mean they emit zero greenhouse gases. It could be that they are counteracting them in some other way.
NativeEnergy helps businesses to meet their sustainability goals. It allows them to assess their carbon footprints, and then allow them to invest in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Promoting these initiatives as a digital business not only offsets your carbon footprint but also shows potential customers that your company is committed to a sustainable future.
Be confident in your statements about sustainability if you are bold enough to stand by them. This is an example. Coca Cola is the largest plastic polluter in the globe, and Innocent drinks is a smoothie company. Despite making a catchy jingle, their vague and unsubstantiated claims were quickly discredited by environmentalists, and ultimately the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA).
These claims can not only be misleading, but they can also lead to greenwashing if there is a hidden trade-off (e.g., 100% vegan ingredients, but non-recyclable packaging). Don’t exaggerate your green credentials. Consumers are becoming more eco-conscious and will see through misleading or ambiguous claims. Avoid using terms such as “ethical”, “natural” and “environmentally-friendly” because these are meaningless and misleading. Instead, focus on tangible improvements.
While sustainability and environmental issues may seem to be the greatest challenge facing digital businesses, there are many ways to create a more sustainable business model. From the way your team works to how you offset your impact. You should set realistic and achievable sustainability goals, or you might be accused of greenwashing your promises.