E-commerce sustainability: 7 ways your brand can reduce its carbon footprint in 2022

Green will never go out of fashion. Whether your business revolves around clothing and accessories or unit injectors and radiators, green symbolises care for the environment and the climate, which should always be close to everyone's heart. Certainly, eco-conscious consumers are more likely to choose companies that act by their values. Therefore, a reduced e-commerce carbon footprint pays off for businesses and the planet regardless of the industry. Here are seven ways to turn e-commerce into eco-commerce.

3 min read


Ksenia Pisera

Journalist, popularizer of knowledge about environmental and climate protection

Therefore, climate change mitigation and a low carbon footprint are directions that e-commerce must consider to reach a vast group of consumers.

Green e-commerce is the future

It is said that the only certainty is change. And e-commerce is no exception. Every year, research and consulting agencies study consumer trends. Just as pandemic constraints have driven the boom in online shopping, the discussion about the need to mitigate climate change also significantly impacts people’s decisions. Awareness of the impact of everyday choices on the planet’s condition is significant for shopping behaviours – especially among millennials and generation Z.

Sustainability, along with cost and convenience, is recognised as one of the critical factors in purchasing decisions as of 2020. According to a 2021 survey by Statista, more than a third of respondents consider a company’s social and environmental sustainability efforts when choosing new products. Euromonitor International’s research forecasting consumer trends for 2022 makes it clear – millennials and generation Z are aware that their choices are making a difference. This is important because these groups eagerly shop online. Researchers predict that shoppers will look for solutions that have a neutral or beneficial impact on the climate.

Therefore, climate change mitigation and a low carbon footprint are directions that e-commerce must consider to reach a vast group of consumers. However, it is not enough to talk – action is needed. Consumers sense greenwashing well. Here are some proven ways to bring real change and lower your company’s carbon footprint.

  1. Start with yourself – green solutions in the office
    Your business starts at its doorstep. You could therefore offer an utterly climate-neutral product, but if you burn tyres in the company’s furnace, dispose of the waste in the forest, and use disposable cups instead of glasses – you are doing it wrong.Such extreme types of behaviour are, of course, the easiest to identify and change. There are many ways to create a green office. Start by checking the standard of the building (especially the condition of the heating and cooling system), gradually replace equipment with energy-efficient ones, dispose of waste properly or save paper.These would all reduce the office’s carbon footprint, also in e-commerce. You can read the details on our blog.
  2. Eco-friendly packaging solutions for e-commerceEvery order needs to be packaged to reach the customer safely. Estimates indicate that up to 30% of e-commerce’s carbon footprint comes from shipping packaging. Hence, it is worth considering greener solutions instead of single-use packaging. Many biodegradable, plant-based materials are available that decompose without harming the environment. Opting for reusable packaging can also be a good option as it extends their life cycle.Packaging is often the customer’s first physical point of contact with a company. You can only make a good first impression once!

  3. The green light for sustainable deliveriesThe buyers very much expect fast delivery. Hence, transport is a massive contributor to the carbon footprint of e-commerce. According to the data, transport accounts for up to 8% of CO2 emissions worldwide. Studies show that the so-called last mile deliveries, i.e. deliveries to the customer’s doorstep, account for a large proportion of this.Unless you operate exclusively locally and fully control how orders are delivered, you have to rely on external companies. That’s why it’s a good idea to cooperate with carriers that also care about a low carbon footprint and going green. Some companies, for example, use electric vehicles and bicycles for the last mile deliveries, paperless invoicing, or have their network of pick-up points, allowing the customer to pick up their order at a convenient time and within walking distance.
  4. Restrictions on returns in e-commerceReturning goods means not only not earning money but also the additional CO2 emissions associated with transporting the order back to the warehouse. It is also the cost of packaging, its manufacture and many other resources. It is, therefore, worth putting a strong emphasis on reducing the number of returns in e-commerce.A SaleCycle study found that 64.1% of respondents said that the goods did not match the description, and 37.2% did not like the item. These are clear indications to describe and present products on the website in as much detail as possible. The starting point will therefore be well-crafted descriptions and realistic photographs.

  5. Good practice – don’t wasteWhat happens to the returned, often damaged goods? Every product that is sent back, even if unsuitable for resale, can be used as raw materials. It is worth reusing as otherwise, it ends up straight in the rubbish bin. If they are of no use to your company, it will certainly be worth finding one that makes good use of them!

  6. Carbon audit and CO2 offsetting of e-commerceImplementing green solutions certainly reduces the carbon footprint of e-commerce. However, please know that the company’s greenhouse gas emissions, which can no longer be reduced, can be offset. In this way, your business can become beneficial to the environment too!To do so, it is worth seeking the help of environmental experts for whom complex calculations based on The GHG Protocol, ISO 14044, ISO 14076, and PAS 2050 standards are a daily occurrence preceded by years of experience. This will save you time and effort, which is, after all, needed to run your business.It is also a warranty that you are offsetting the exact number of CO2 emissions that your company emits. As a result, its operations will become carbon neutral. If you want to do even more for the planet and future generations, you can buy more offsets than you need to neutralise your carbon footprint. Companies that act in this way can boast of being climate-friendly.
    Depending on your needs, you will be asked questions about the details of your business or given proprietary online tools to carry out an accurate analysis of your sources and levels of CO2 emissions. Experts will use the answers to carry out carbon footprint calculations and make recommendations on where else to reduce emissions. If you want to carry out such calculations yourself, use, for example, the CO2 calculator for air travel or the CO2 calculator for events.

    The next step is carbon offsetting, i.e., compensating for one’s greenhouse gas emissions – in whole or in part – through the financing of pro-climate projects focusing, for example, on agroforestry or renewable energy generation. By reducing CO2 emissions or capturing greenhouse gases (and meeting demanding standards), they are authorised to issue carbon credits. Carbon offsets thus involve the purchase of a corresponding number of such credits.

  7. Support pro-environmental initiatives
    We are fortunate to have many reliable companies and organisations working for the climate and the environment. See if you can do something good together. Think of it as a process, not a one-off action. That way, change will be sustainable and impact a healthier future for our planet.For example, TerGo’s agroforestry project in Belize, which has been running since 2020, is making a positive difference locally and globally. We plant mango, avocado and graviola trees according to a well-defined planting plan, optimising the greenhouse gas uptake of the plants. We pass on 100% of the harvest to residents. As a result, we create jobs with fair wages, support the local community and provide carbon offsets following the highest standards.

Bonus: join TerGo!

Looking for tailor-made ecological e-commerce solutions? Contact TerGo. We believe that new technologies will help save our planet. That’s why we have developed solutions that are effective for e-commerce. Both for business and the planet!