5 steps to sustainable shipping

Global e-commerce buyers demand faster and more convenient service. The result, according to the World Economic Forum, is 36% more delivery vehicles in cities by 2030. The associated increases in global emissions, traffic congestion and pollution will be significant unless businesses and consumers change their behavior and expectations.

Here are five ways businesses can implement sustainable shipping practices.

green energy

Green energy can help businesses run more smoothly and reduce environmental impact. Businesses should identify what clean energy sources are available locally and how to integrate sustainable business strategies.

For example, robotic order pickers that work without lights reduce a company’s physical footprint.

In addition, solar panels on warehouses can reduce energy costs while protecting the environment.

Biofuel, usually derived from plant matter, is mostly liquid or gaseous. Using biofuel for transportation can result in a significant reduction in a company’s carbon footprint.

Sustainable packaging

Almost a third of local US waste comes from containers and packaging. About 165 billion packages are delivered in the US each year, using about a billion trees worth of cardboard.

Ecommerce companies looking to improve the visuals of sustainability often focus on eco-friendly packaging first. Established companies like Uline and others offer various eco-friendly packaging options.

There are many alternatives to plastic and non-recyclable paper product packaging, including:

  • biodegradable or reusable shipping boxes,
  • recyclable shredded paper,
  • unlined paper envelopes,
  • recyclable air cushions,
  • biodegradable or reusable shipping boxes,
  • corrugated packaging,
  • paper packing tape,
  • recyclable stretch film,
  • Compostable or recyclable mailers.

emissions offsetting

E-commerce companies are increasingly reducing their environmental impact through carbon offsetting. This form of environmental redemption began in 1989 when Applied Energy Services funded an agricultural forest to offset the development of a coal-fired power plant. Today, carbon offsetting is an established business practice. Impactful.ninja, which promotes sustainability practices, reports that the global carbon offset market is now worth $262 billion.

Screenshot of the Impactful.ninja homepage

Impactful.ninja reports that the global carbon offset market is now worth $262 billion.

There are several options for customers to implement carbon offsetting, including Carbon Neutral Orders, a Shopify app from EcoCart that allows customers to add 1-2% to their order total for next-day delivery. The 1-2% surcharge may be reasonable when a customer expects next day delivery, which is significantly less environmentally friendly than an order that takes a few days.

It is unlikely that a company will eliminate all CO2 emissions. However, carbon offsetting minimizes emissions effects and contributes to a sustainable future. Offset plans are not equal to compensation plans and it is prudent to be cautious when implementing offsetting as a sustainability solution. Offsetting can help a company meet its environmental, social, and governance goals, but customers sometimes perceive it as greenwashing.

Reuse and recycle

Even if a company contributes to sustainability with packaging that is as environmentally friendly as possible, most will likely end up in landfill if customers are not aware of other options.

Assist your buyers with information on the best ways to dispose of compostable and recyclable packaging, which may involve breaking down different types of combined packaging and disposing of it properly or reusing it for their own shipping needs. Simple instructions on your website or printed information on the packaging will help get the message across.

Ground-based shipping

Depending on your location, ground-based shipping could reduce air freight and limit your carbon footprint.

You can remind buyers of the environmental benefits of land-based shipping while also encouraging them with reduced costs or free shipping.

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