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GUEST COMMENT Seven things to consider when starting an eco-friendly ecommerce business

James Mellan-Matulewicz Creative Director and Designer at Bobbi Beck

To help new ecommerce businesses reduce their carbon footprint and maximise their sustainability, James Mellan-Matulewicz, Creative Director and Designer at sustainable luxury wallpaper retailer, Bobbi Beck, shares the seven things that you should be aware of when starting up your eco-friendly brand

According to new research from TCS, 88% of UK consumers want to purchase sustainably made and sourced products, making 2023 the perfect time for new and emerging eCommerce businesses to enforce a greener mindset into their models and practices.

However, starting an eco-friendly eCommerce company is an important commitment, and there are many areas of business that you may not have considered could be bad for the environment, yet have been proven to have a considerable impact. 

As a sustainable business, it’s important to ensure that your eco-friendly practices aren’t just restricted to the products you produce. From storage and production to packaging and delivery, every aspect of your business should be considered in your commitment to the development of a greener planet. Implementing these changes may not only have a positive impact on the environment, but on the attitude of your consumers, with sustainable purchasing becoming an increased concern for many.

  1. Sustainable packaging 

Packaging your product with eco-friendly materials can be a huge draw for consumers, alleviating them of the guilt of throwing away yet another plastic wrapper from their recent purchases. Tightened restrictions regarding single-use plastics have led many retailers to reconsider how they contain their goods so as to avoid contributing to further landfill waste.

Tissue paper, paper bags, carton and other recyclable or biodegradable materials are just some of the alternatives that eCommerce businesses can use in their packaging as a substitute for their polluting counterparts. Compostable packaging is another advancing solution that aims to recreate the sturdy and durable qualities of typical plastic within a material that has the ability to degrade in a compostable environment. With technology evolving to account for the growing need for sustainable packaging, there are more ways than ever to adapt your business framework to be more environmentally conscious.

  • Greener delivery 

Some 16% of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to the transport and logistics industry, according to DHL, which means that how you deliver products to your customers has a greater impact on the planet than you’d expect. Next-day delivery may be a hugely popular choice for consumers looking to receive their items as quickly and efficiently as possible, but the large number of delivery vehicles required to meet this demand can be detrimental to the environment. Many courier companies are now trying to combat this by employing greener transportation methods.

At Bobbi Beck, we have partnered with DHL on their GoGreen initiative, which aims to reduce logistic-related greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. Whether it’s the introduction of electric vans, an increase in courier bicycles, or a more fuel-efficient air fleet, choosing a courier that is visibly working towards eco-friendly practices is a great way to ensure that this sustainable mindset continues out on the road

“As well as this, offering your customers slower delivery options will help aid the reduction of delivery trucks and therefore, minimise the amount of pollutants emitted into the atmosphere.

  • Product lifespan

A sustainable product shouldn’t just come down to what materials are used in its production, but how the consumer uses it. Selling items with a limited lifespan or purpose increases the need for their replacement or outright disposal, therefore hindering their environmental value. Products with greater longevity will not only be more appealing to consumers, but will prevent the direction of further resources towards consistently reproducing and substituting these items for newer models.

If you are selling a product that is intended for temporary or minimal use, then one environmentally beneficial habit is to focus on its end-of-life potential. If a consumer does choose to dispose of their items, can they do so in an ecological way? Can the material be reused?

  • Carbon tracking

Monitoring your carbon footprint is an important part of being an eco-friendly eCommerce business, yet is often difficult to navigate. Whilst tools to aid companies in this area can be lacking, we have found CBN Expert to be an invaluable resource. This allows us to input key elements of our business, whether it be the materials we use, the amount of waste that we produce, or the ways in which our staff travel to and from work, and uses this information to calculate our carbon footprint, according to CBN Expert

“Tracking your carbon output is essential to understanding just how sustainable your business practices really are and provides guidelines on how you can improve your approach to sustainability going forward.

  • Carbon Neutral vs. Net Zero

Terms like ‘Carbon Neutral’ and ‘Net Zero’ are often used interchangeably when it comes to discussions around sustainability, but whilst it is easy to conflate the two, it’s important to understand their differences. Carbon Neutrality is when the carbon generated is offset through a circular product lifecycle or a Gold Standard carbon offsetting scheme. However, the calculation for this only considers carbon generated from your business.

Comparatively, for a company to be deemed as ‘Net Zero’, everyone in the supply chain needs to be ‘Carbon Neutral’. This includes any raw materials providers and logistics companies.

As a Carbon Neutral company ourselves, Bobbi Beck is currently in the process of offsetting the carbon that we emitted in 2022.

  • Stock and storage

Warehouses housing large amounts of stock may be a useful storage option, but they also tend to use up lots of energy and release large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, and so are bad for the environment. To tackle this dilemma, businesses should consider establishing a made-to-order model wherever possible. This means that products are only made when a customer orders them, reducing the necessity for large amounts of stock and decreasing your carbon footprint by allowing for smaller workspaces. What’s more, by producing items only to meet a specific demand, businesses can avoid generating waste from items that don’t meet order expectations and ultimately get discarded.

  • Renewable practices 

There are plenty of ways that businesses can improve their sustainability through simple yet effective actions. Running your office space off of renewable energy, planting a tree for every product that you sell, or collaborating with eco-friendly organisations on a donation basis are just some of the many options to extend your commitment to sustainability beyond the products that you sell. Even the smallest action can make all the difference.”

James Mellan-Matulewicz is Creative Director and Designer at Bobbi Beck

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