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Sustainability matters this peak season

Business · 4 min read

Sustainability matters this peak season

MOVE OVER WHITE CHRISTMAS, THE BIG THEME THIS HOLIDAY SEASON IS “GREEN”. SUSTAINABILITY WILL BE A KEY INFLUENCE ON CONSUMERS’ BUYING DECISIONS, SO HERE’S HOW TO IMPLEMENT A SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS STRATEGY.  

We typically associate the peak season with excess and consumption. But, this year, things are set to be a little different.

Research by Salesforce1 found that 83% of shoppers intend to seek out eco-friendly brands and products this holiday season. Further results revealed that beyond a company’s treatment of customers and employees, its environmental practices are the top factor influencing buying decisions.

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What is a sustainable business strategy?

A sustainable business strategy is the goal a company sets to help it improve its impact on the environment. These actionable steps can be implemented immediately – such as switching to plastic-free packaging – or may require long-term planning, such as committing to a five-year goal to become carbon neutral.

Benefits of a sustainable business strategy

Consumers are increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of their online shopping habits, and now expect retailers to play their part. For brands looking to attract new customers (and indeed keep existing ones), a strong eco-policy will be a big pull.

There’s also money to be saved! A successful sustainable business strategy can lead to lower operating costs and a reduction of supply chain wastage.

Happy customers, happy planet, happy bottom line!

So, how does your e-commerce business fair in the sustainability stakes? Will it be on Santa’s naughty or nice list? From green packaging to ethical logistics, here are some sustainable business ideas to help you up your game.

SHOPPERS’ WISH LISTS

The big question for any e-commerce business is: how do consumers’ sustainability concerns translate to buying behavior – specifically, what products will people be looking for this peak season?

  • eBay’s Christmas Spends Trends 2022 report2 found that 56% of UK consumers plan to buy “thoughtful” gifts for friends and family this year. Brands which can market their sustainability features as a special USP will attract these buyers.
  • Secondhand products will tick off consumers’ desire for both sustainability and affordability. The resale industry is now growing 11 times faster than traditional retail3.
  • Handmade products will have their moment to shine, too. Craft marketplace Etsy has released its festive season predictions. Its top tip for sellers? “Consider sustainability and how you can attract environmentally-conscious shoppers by using recycled materials, creating items with multiple uses, and offering high quality products made to last.”4
  • Consumers will favor bulk buying, not only for cost savings but because they are aware this reduces the number of deliveries – and thus carbon emissions – made.
  • There’s good news for SMEs – more consumers intend to shop with small, local businesses this holiday season5.

 

SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MODEL EXAMPLES: BRANDS LEADING THE WAY

Need a little inspiration for a sustainable business strategy? Let’s take a look at some of the e-commerce brands leading the way.

Pangaia  

Loved by celebrities and all the cool kids, this apparel brand7 is everything fast fashion is not. Calling itself a “materials science company”, it’s committed to bringing breakthrough textile innovations to the world. Using plant (instead of plastic) -based nylon, fibers made from banana leaves, and natural dyes, it’s a lesson in sustainability.

GoEthical

This sustainable marketplace8 offers hampers full of planet-friendly products – the perfect, ready-to-go idea for those wishing to give their loved ones a green gift this Christmas. Visitors to the website can filter products by 13 categories, including “vegan”, “zero-waste”, and “plastic free”.

NoIssue

This company9 should be the go-to for any e-commerce company wanting to switch to sustainable packaging this holiday season. There’s compostable wrapping tissue, tape made from rice paper, and recycled cardboard boxes. Even the ink used is non-toxic. Elsewhere, innovation continues: the wonderfully-named Magical Mushroom Company10 makes boxes from – you guessed it – mushrooms.

Naeco

Fashion that saves the planet…UK-based apparel brand Naeco11 (that's ocean spelt backwards) upcycles plastic into luxury men's swimwear. In fact, every pair of Naeco original shorts is made from 15 plastic bottles. It has partnered with DHL to offer customers carbon neutral delivery services, too.

HOW TO CREATE A SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MODEL

  1. Make sustainability a core principle of your business. This is about more than just adopting the latest green “fad”. It means having a long-term, holistic vision of what you want to achieve – and why it matters.
  2. Take steps to become a carbon neutral business. You can only move towards becoming a carbon neutral business by first knowing your sustainability weak spots. Here’s how to reduce waste along your supply chain.
  3. Do your research. This will help you set achievable sustainable targets. Look at what other e-commerce businesses are doing, and the platforms available to help you – such as Ecologi12, which helps businesses offset their emissions through a tree-planting scheme.

  4. Add a “sustainable gifts” section to your website to help visitors quickly find what they’re looking for. Make it creative – offer product bundles or “planet-friendly” gift guidess.

  5. Ensure transparency with your customers. 88% percent of consumers don’t immediately trust brands that say they’re sustainable13, so be sure your claims are 100% authentic to build trust.

  6. Switch to green packaging. You can invest a whole lot of money in a sustainable supply chain, but your brand’s packaging is the touchpoint your customers notice. Plastic is a big no no these days, but there are plenty of companies out there offering alternatives. Do your research and make the switch. Here’s where to start.

  7. Remember, cost still matters. Despite sustainable intentions, the cost-of-living crisis means many consumers will have to prioritize value for money this peak season. How can your business meet both consumers’ price and environmental needs? Get it right and you’ll be cashing in.

  8. Don’t forget the final mile. Be flexible with the delivery options you offer customers at checkout. “Out of home” methods like parcel lockers and in-store pickup have a 30% lower carbon footprint14. Meanwhile, your customers have more choice, and your business reduces its shipping costs. Win win.

  9. Choose a green logistics partner. Did you know that DHL's global delivery fleet now consists of zero-emission vehicles, like electric bikes (and even electric planes!)? DHL has also invested in Greenplan, a solution which uses a unique algorithm to optimize route planning during the movement of goods. In short, by partnering with DHL, you can be assured that your deliveries will be as environmentally friendly as possible.

 

Talk to DHL about how we can help your business reduce its logistics emissions. Our GoGreen solutions include emission-friendly choices to meet all your transportation needs.

1 - Salesforce, July 2022  

2 - Christmas Spend Trends 2022, eBay

3 - JungleScout, April 2022 

4 - Etsy statement, July 2022

5 - Finance.Yahoo, October 2022                     

6 - How consumers are embracing sustainability, Deloitte, 2022 

7 - Pangaia

8 - GoEthical

9 - NoIssue

10 - Magical Mushroom Company

11 - Naeco 

12 - Ecologi

13 - RetailWire, June 2022

14 - How consumers are embracing sustainability, Deloitte, 2022 

Anna Thompson
Anna Thompson Discover content team

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