With Americans purchasing everything from clothes and home goods to groceries and beauty products online, e-commerce continues to grow. Free two-day (or less) shipping is becoming the norm, and industry giants like Amazon are expanding their market share, while other retailers are heavily investing in e-commerce capabilities to meet customer demand.
But what does this seemingly unstoppable trend mean for corporate (not to mention consumer) sustainability commitments? Many companies have comprehensive sustainability programs that have been implemented throughout their entire supply chain—so what impact does an increase in e-commerce activity have on these? And what do environmentally conscious consumers want from retailers when it comes to delivery?
There is a clear need for brands to meet consumers’ thirst for convenient and timely deliveries to their homes, while also carefully considering the environmental implications that come along with this new retail ecosystem.
According to the Asia Pulp and Paper’s (APP) 2017 Paper & Packaging Consumer Trends Report, compared to five years ago, the sustainability of paper-based packaging today is either much more or more important to half of all consumers (50 percent). Additionally, 51 percent of Americans say that they consider packaging waste to be an important environmental issue.
Finally, only 18 percent of consumers believe that shopping online is better for the environment than shopping in stores.
Packaging is a critical part of logistics and supply chain for e-commerce—without it, it simply would be impossible to safely and effectively deliver products to consumers. To ensure this packaging meets sustainability standards, brands should ask themselves two important questions:
- How sustainable is our packaging? From the boxes used for shipping to the actual product packaging, companies must focus on making it as sustainable as possible. Using packaging made from recycled materials is a simple—yet very impactful—way to increase sustainability. There also are other sustainable options available, including paper based packaging made from fast growing trees harvested for pulp from sustainable plantations. And thanks to advances in paper making technology, there are now stronger paperboard products available that are manufactured using less water and reduced energy costs/carbon footprint than historical product. In addition to understanding the range of sustainable packaging products available for delivery needs, CPG companies should explore ways to optimize individual product packaging in a way that reduces waste while providing necessary protection.
- How efficiently do we package items for delivery? Ever had that moment when a large box arrives at your doorstep and you open it to only find one small item included inside? If so, you’re not alone. More than half (52 percent) of all consumers surveyed agreed that the packaging of delivery items is often much larger than the item itself. And many (48 percent) also indicated that retailers need to do a better job sending delivery items in packaging that better fits the product’s size and reduces waste. Prioritizing ways to more efficiently and properly package products in the right size boxes and ensure multiple items are packaged together whenever possible is a critical part of increasing sustainability in our digital shopping age.
While there are a range of aspects to consider within the e-commerce supply chain that have an impact on sustainability, it’s important to remember that packaging is one of the most visible pieces to consumers. Brands that think strategically about how to reduce packaging waste and increase overall packaging sustainability will succeed in meeting the increasing consumer demand to shop with environmentally-responsible companies.