August 17, 2021

Why the future of fulfillment lies in sustainability and 5 ways your e-Commerce brand can help

Yiasu Verma

Sustainability is becoming a larger and more strategic issue for supply-chain leaders as consumer awareness of the environmental impact of online purchases grows. With e-Commerce sales expected to double over the next decade, business leaders will be challenged to find eco-friendly and carbon-neutral solutions for their e-Commerce fulfillment activities. 

E-Commerce waste is a far more serious issue than some may realize. The EPA estimated in 2018 that packaging accounts for approximately 30% of all household waste. Furthermore, only 9% of all plastic packages have ever been recycled, with the remainder ending up in our oceans, forests, and landfills. Inconsiderate packaging not only harms the environment but has the potential to harm your brand’s reputation. 

As consumer awareness about climate change and global warming increases, brands that undertake sustainable measures are generally applauded for their efforts. In this blog post, we will define sustainable fulfillment, why switching to sustainability is a good idea, and 5 ways your e-Commerce brand can become more sustainable. 


What is Sustainable Fulfillment?

Sustainable Fulfillment involves implementing eco-friendly procedures and using environmentally safe packaging materials while completing order fulfillment.  


Why Sustainable Fulfillment? 
 


Brand Perception
 

E-Commerce companies want to do everything possible to avoid goods being destroyed while in transit. However, this usually means that the order fulfillment procedure will require more packaging. Having to dispose of this extra packaging waste can be a frustrating experience for customers, one that may leave them with negative feelings towards your brand. 

According to Shorr, only 11% of customers are satisfied with the packaging of their e-Commerce orders. The main reasons behind this are because the packaging is excessive, too difficult to open, or it is not recyclable. All these factors will affect the way that customers perceive your brand. 

Providing a convenient unboxing experience while promoting sustainability goes a long way in creating a positive brand impression.  


Consumer Awareness about Environmental Issues
 

Since 2019, consumers have become more and more aware of issues surrounding pollution and packaging waste. This increased awareness has adjusted the buyer decision process to consider environmentally friendly purchase habits. Furthermore, 81% of U.S. shoppers feel that businesses have an obligation to help protect the environment. 

A sustainable order fulfillment plan makes a significant statement on your brand’s eco-friendly credentials, especially as more consumers start to seek out this information on your site and social media. 


Reduces Costs in the Long Run
 

With a sustainable approach, you can save money in the long run by streamlining your strategy and cutting expenditures in a variety of areas. Businesses are realizing that small changes like reducing the thickness of carton covering, substituting polystyrene with PET and reducing the size of secondary packaging can reduce material cost, improve recyclability while cutting down expenditure and lower greenhouse emissions.   

Now that we’ve identified sustainable fulfilment and its advantages, here are five ways your e-Commerce brand can improve its green initiative: 


Sustainable Packaging 
 

Sustainable Fulfillment starts with the right-size packaging and eco-friendly packaging for your items. Cut down your use of plastic packaging and replace it with alternatives such as plant-based polymers and paper.  We recommend using on-demand packaging to avoid unnecessary packaging waste. You can create custom-sized boxes for each order instead of using premade boxes. This smart packaging process reduces waste, lowers shipping costs, reduces damage rates, and increases customer satisfaction. You also have the option to ship products in their original cartons to avoid over boxing. You should try to encourage your consumers to reuse and recycle any excess plastic waste and educate them on the importance of sustainability. 


In-house Warehouse Practices
 

Businesses must also consider the environmental impact of their distribution centers. You can become greener in a variety of ways, including a focus on recycling, eco-friendly construction features, and LEED certification for energy efficiency. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership. You should also assess the environmental impact of automation and new material-handling equipment. Using a warehouse management system (WMS) or an order management system (OMS) helps in verifying that the correct orders are chosen, packed, and loaded appropriately to reduce returns, reroutes, and expedited shipping. Order accuracy prevents unwanted order returns which not only saves transportation costs, but also reduces energy and emissions from the additional shipping journey. 


Intelligent Order Fulfillment & Routing
 

Transportation-related carbon emissions are another major source of waste in your supply chain. Optimize your transportation by using WMS/OMS to calculate the most energy and cost-efficient routes. Avoid split shipments by fulfilling orders from a single location. Having multiple warehouses consumes a lot more energy in terms of receiving, restocking, and shipping inventory. Fulfillment from a single warehouse saves you packaging material and transportation costs.  


Sustainable Delivery Options
 

Emissions from delivery vehicles make up a large portion of environmental pollution, and if they continue to operate in the same way, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions from delivery vehicles is set to increase by 32%. However, many delivery services are making efforts to move towards sustainability by launching their eco-friendly programs. Some examples are: 

These programs aim at utilizing recycled shipping material, paperless invoicing and tracking options, and offer sustainable and greener options to buyers to offset their carbon emissions.   


Eco-friendly Suppliers
 

It’s critical to choose the right suppliers if you want to make your sustainability initiatives go the extra mile. It can be common for suppliers to create limited visibility into their operations but in this case, accountability will ensure your entire supply chain is adhering to green practices. As the market becomes eco-conscious, manufacturers follow suit to keep and gain customers. Those that are fully transparent and willing to discuss their operations like material sourcing and transportation standards will be the best partners. These alliances are likely to generate mutual benefit and hold shared values, creating long-lasting growth. 


Entering the U.S. e-Commerce market in 2021 means staying educated on buyer expectations of brands and their level of social responsibility. Because of this, businesses can measure success in terms of brand preference and likability, not just profit. For some industries, being eco-conscious is not only preferred by customers but expected. Team members and participants in your supply chain should be held the standard you want to set when it comes to green procedures. 

Many retail firms have already pledged to make environmentally conscious decisions throughout different steps in their supply chain. If your market research shows that your target audience may value green initiatives, you should consider optimizing your fulfillment processes with sustainable measures. Many of our customers seek eco-friendly solutions and we have the resources to provide them. On top of that, we have our own internal initiatives that are revisited every year, ensuring we are continuously reducing our ecological footprint.   If you are seeking advice on how to clean up your fulfillment process, fill out our form here to hear from a logistics expert. 

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