Sustainability

3 Sustainability Trends That Are Good for Business, Too

Good-sense sustainability efforts can improve the bottom line.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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BY MARIA HAGGERTY, CEO, DOTCOM DISTRIBUTION@MHAGGERTYCEO

Can businesses produce lucrative results while making decisions that are better for the environment? In a world where both companies and consumers are increasingly eco-conscious, sustainable strategies could meet consumer demand and benefit your bottom line.

Here are a few sustainable business practices that can improve the environment while driving value across multiple areas of your business:

Packaging sustainably

If you need a business-driven reason to transition to eco-friendly packaging, consider its role in the purchase decision, customer retention, and brand affinity. In Dotcom Distribution's 2022 e-commerce study, which focused on e-commerce preferences, experiences, expectations and behaviors of 1,150 online shoppers across the U.S., 69 percent cited eco-friendly packaging as a factor that makes them want to shop with a brand again.

Even when isolating only environmental factors, packaging rose to the top of the list of consumers' purchase motivations. Sixty-six percent of participants cited eco-friendly packaging as the environmental factor most likely to make them shop with a brand, outweighing fuel-efficient transportation methods (21 percent) and ethical sourcing (13 percent). Twenty-six percent said receiving an online order packaged with environmentally friendly materials makes them more likely to share photos or videos of products on social media, which can grow a brand's online presence and credibility.

Creating a sustainable packaging strategy is just as much about the materials you don't use as the ones you do. For example, when a company splits a single order into multiple shipments, it creates more plastic waste. By utilizing an omnichannel order management system (OMS), you're able to access insights that can inform you to make strategic decisions that could reduce plastic and other shipping material usage. Having visibility into the location and availability of all your inventory allows you to fulfill a single order at one location rather than splitting it into multiple shipments. The result? An opportunity to reduce material usage, costs, and carbon emissions.

Supporting circular economy

The idea behind the circular economy is to design products in a way that uses less raw materials and maximizes their reuse. An example would be designing an electrical device so that it's easier to repair. If you're thinking reusability is a path to lower purchase frequency, you're not wrong, but you're not looking at the whole picture.

With advances in technology and innovation, creating profitable products with less waste has been made more possible than ever. Conscious, forward-thinking companies are proactively reducing waste by factoring circularity into product design, manufacturing, and logistics processes rather than responding to it as if it were a problem.

Circular packaging solutions may create a lower environmental impact than traditional packaging, help businesses save money, and become more efficient. Many consumers are looking for ways to reduce their own environmental footprint and, in turn, are inclined to support businesses with models that enable them to do this--even if it costs a little more.

Reducing returns

Shipping product from warehouse to customer generates transportation emissions, so adding another shipment into the mix due to a return--and perhaps another if that returned item is then replaced--expands your carbon footprint. Attempting to minimize product returns has intrinsic benefits, as the fewer items returned generates savings through reduced inputs, but it's also better for the planet because fewer returns yield less transport.

Tried-and-true ways to reduce your return rate include making sure all product information--from descriptions to photos to multichannel availability--is accurate and updated in real time. If you're looking to take it a step further, consider returnless refunds. At first glance, providing a customer with a full refund while allowing them to keep the item they want to return might seem like a loss, but depending on the item's value and the circumstances of the return, the opposite can be true.

Considering the costs associated with return shipping, labor for restocking, refurbishment, or destruction, the amount of money usurped by a single return could easily end surpass the product's worth. And if sustainability is part of your strategy, the prevention of unnecessary transport could help reduce your company's environmental footprint.

Consumers are demanding that companies take responsibility for their role in helping our planet. By exploring emerging innovations throughout the supply chain, from product sourcing to packaging materials to transportation, your business can meet that rising demand while increasing profits.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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