Can e-commerce be eco-friendly? Your guide to sustainable logistics.
Environmental protection is also an issue in e-commerce
Sustainable, eco-friendly and green: these are the buzzwords of today. Climate change has been on everyone's lips not just since the Friday for Futures movement. It affects all of us and does not stop at any sector. Not even e-commerce!
Sustainability is a major issue, especially in cross-border e-commerce. After all, goods travel often long distances and customers always have environmental compatibility in mind when placing their orders. Learn how you can increase the sustainability of your online business.
Sustainable shipping - does that work?
The combination of e-commerce and sustainability is no longer a unique selling proposition. Just think of the big e-retailers: Amazon, Otto Group, Zalando, Target - they all have started focusing on sustainable deliveries and are constantly announcing new sustainability goals.
This is not without reason. According to an IPC study, 61% of the surveyed online shoppers would like to have a sustainable delivery option. Two thirds are even willing to wait a little longer for their order for environmental reasons.
Source: IPC Shopper Survey 2019
Pay more for sustainable delivery
Another impressive figure: 62% of those surveyed are willing to pay € 0.10 more for climate-neutral shipping. This trend can also be seen in the packaging. 81% want reusable packaging and 68% are also willing to pay € 0.10 more for it. Sustainability in e-commerce is therefore a huge issue.
Information on climate-neutral packaging
Have you ever thought about which approaches can be taken to increase sustainability in e-commerce? Think about packaging - it has a huge potential and can really make a difference! But what does sustainable packaging mean anyway? We have put together some information for you.
How do you realize environmentally friendly packaging? Read our blog post.
Motivate your customers for sustainability
So: Your customers want to receive their goods in the most environmentally friendly way possible. And they are also willing to pay a little more for it and wait a little longer for the order.
But it is interesting to note that despite this fact, only 35% of the consumers surveyed have changed their behaviour regarding shipping options. So during the ordering process only a few are consistent and actually choose an eco-friendly delivery.
What does this mean for you as an online retailer? Take the decision from your customers! Put the additional costs of sustainable logistics into your margin. This way you set a good example and automatically offer only sustainable e-commerce.
Nudging, simply explained
Another possibility is nudging.. This refers to the effect when "a relationship is designed in such a way that it directs our spontaneous actions in the desired and positive direction for those acting. (Scheuthle, 2020)
According to Scheuthle, such a nudge is generally well accepted, as long as its goal has humanitarian legitimacy and the behaviour is made transparent. So how can you use this effect for sustainable logistics processes?
An example is to have the shipping option already pre-set to an environmentally friendly option (default). It won't take long till the positive effect sets in, try it out!
Source: Example from the customer login mail international shipping documents and the preset climate neutral shipping option.
Instead of the consent rule (Opt-In), you can use the default effect to motivate your customers to leave the check mark already activated.
Or you can give them additional information that explains briefly and concisely how much CO2 emissions are saved or offset with this shipping method.
Climate neutral shipping - what does that actually mean?
Sustainability in e-commerce can be implemented in various ways. One option is the slower shipping method. For example, a slow delivery means that an express or next day delivery has been dispensed with.
Slow Delivery: the eco-friendly alternative
In cross-border e-commerce, fast delivery is not always required. According to IPC, in international e-commerce, delivery costs, delivery location, tracking, customs duties and returns handling are much more important to the customer satisfaction than delivery time (source: IPC Shopper Survey 2019).
It is a fact that express and priority shipments are often transported by air because of the transport time. Slow shipments, on the other hand, are transported and collected by road, depending on the delivery route.
- Pro tip:
To meet the different customer expectations, it is best to offer different delivery options. Evaluate and analyse them regularly. This will help you make the right adjustments.
However, a slow delivery does not automatically mean that the shipment is sustainable, because goods are always transported from A to B. Within Switzerland, however, this is possible in a climate-neutral way, depending on the postal company. For example, Swiss Post compensates for the CO2 emissions of all domestic letter items. This is guaranteed by the Pro-Clima label.
Choose your shipping partner well
Not only for climate protectors: Avoidance goes before compensation. A principle that is a great challenge in cross-border e-commerce! It is almost impossible to emit no CO2 emissions at all in international online trading.
Nevertheless, you have the opportunity to set an example when it comes to shipping - by choosing the right shipping partner. Check here exactly what measures your potential shipping partner is implementing to minimize its CO2 emissions.
Swiss Post attaches great importance to environmental protection
Swiss Post is already taking various effective measures to make its processes environmentally friendly:
- It uses almost 50% electric vehicles in national transport.
- The entire electricity is obtained from renewable and nature-made-basic certified energies. For example, the 6000 three-wheeled post scooters run on green electricity.
- Swiss Post operates some of the largest photovoltaic systems in Switzerland on the roofs of the letter and parcel centres.
- Bulky cargo is optimised so that double-deck articulated lorries are used to be more than 50% loaded.
- Swiss Post is constantly striving to improve its CO2 efficiency. To achieve this, it invests in energy-efficient vehicles, buildings, systems and equipment.
- In 2019 it joined the international EV100 (Electric Vehicles) initiative. It aims to make electric mobility standard by 2030.
Swiss Post is doing everything it can to act responsibly and conduct business in an environmentally responsible manner.
Swiss Post customers have the option of offsetting their e-commerce consignments via Pro Clima for CO2 emissions that still cannot be avoided. This involves investing in two climate protection projects.
Aspects for sustainable logistics
With Slow Delivery and choosing the right shipping partner, you have already taken two important steps towards sustainable logistics. But you have even more opportunities to act environmentally conscious.
Whether local stores or online stores are ahead in terms of CO2 balance is debatable. A national online store in particular can be more environmentally friendly than a local store, depending on the recipient’s location.
In areas with high population density, orders can be bundled and thus delivered efficiently. On the periphery, the distances are longer and therefore higher CO2 emissions are generated.
Avoid partial deliveries - for the sake of the environment and costs
Partial deliveries in e-commerce are inefficient and also place an enormous burden on the CO2 balance. Customers are usually not even aware of this fact.
Avoid partial deliveries! Like this:
- Grant your customers a discount if they choose a bundled delivery.
- Point out to your customers that a partial delivery unnecessarily pollutes the environment.
- Ensure with a default effect that the entire delivery is automatically selected and point out the CO2 compatibility of this option.
In addition to the positive effect on the environment, you also avoid double shipping costs with partial deliveries. Therefore it is worth dealing with the topic in detail.
Delivery quality influences CO2 emissions
Have you ever thought about what the delivery quality has to do with the CO2 balance? It is a lot!
If you choose a carrier who has a poor delivery quality, goods are transported back and forth unnecessarily. It is worth noting that Swiss Post occupies a top position in an international comparison with a first delivery rate of 90%!
With the "My consignments" service, delivery can be conveniently controlled online - even after the shipment has been posted. For example, if your customer knows that no one is at home on the scheduled delivery day, the shipment can be delivered to a neighbour or redirected to his or her office. Easy, isn't it?
Another important note that shows you what has an impact on the quality of delivery: If your shipment is subject to VAT and customs duty, it is often the case that customers reject the package. This means that the shipment will be returned to you as the sender. In addition, a refund must be made and you will not earn a penny.
- Pro tip:
If possible, always choose a DDP customs clearance solution so that your customers receive the goods without an additional payment.
Several delivery attempts are bad for the climate
In Switzerland, it works like this: If an item cannot be delivered to the recipient on the first delivery attempt, it is deposited at the nearest post office. The recipient will find an invitation to collect the item in his or her letterbox. This procedure causes unnecessary greenhouse gases and could be avoided.
Shipping option is sustainable
Once again: The right shipping partner is key to high delivery quality! But even the best deliverer cannot deliver the shipment if the recipient is not at home. This is why the shipping option is crucial for sustainable e-commerce.
With the shipping option, a distinction must be made as to whether or not the shipment is delivered only against a signature. The best thing is that your customers decide for themselves. If this is not possible, it is recommended to send the parcel by registered mail, so it is immediately insured in case of loss or damage.
For green logistics do not underestimate return handling
What does return handling have to do with climate protection? Quite a lot! An impressive figure to start with: in the fashion sector the return rate is up to 60%! Under certain circumstances this can mean that a consignment is first transported around the world until it finally arrives back at the point of departure. Conclusion: twice as many CO2 emissions as necessary!
A simple and, above all, free return option is a basic requirement in many industries that the customer place an order in the first place. Nevertheless, as an online retailer you have some tools to avoid unnecessary returns.
Take a look at this blog on the return rate and learn how you can significantly reduce it.
- Pro tip:
A national returns solution has many advantages! You save money, it leads to a good customer journey and it improves the CO2 balance, because the return of goods to the country of origin is consolidated.
In summary, everything you need to know about sustainability in e-commerce:
- Sustainability in online trade is important. Therefore, position yourself as an environmentally conscious online shop with climate-friendly shipping options.
- Offer different shipping options and tell your customers how this benefits the environment.
- Nudge your customers towards environmentally friendly shipping.
- Choose a reliable shipping partner with a high first delivery rate.
- Reward your customers with attractive discounts and lower delivery costs if they choose a bundled delivery.
- Let your customers choose which delivery option they want: registered or delivery without signature.
- Reduce your return rate with our blog.
- Use durable and robust packaging for your shipments.
- Pro tip:
As always with sustainability: Do good and talk about it!
The issue of sustainability is becoming increasingly important for all of us. The latest findings in research and development will be incorporated into e-commerce and make it even more ecological. Our tips are a first step - take responsibility!
IPC, Shopper Survey, 2019: https://www.ipc.be/services/markets-and-regulations/cross-border-shopper-survey
Scheuthle H., Bitte Stupsen in Die Umwelt vom Bundesamt für Umwelt (BAFU), Ausgabe 01.2020