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How US retailers can exceed expectations on sustainability


Published on: Jun 11, 2022


Are your products sustainable? What about your shipping carrier? And most importantly – do your customers see your business as sustainable? Sustainability has become a key factor in how US consumers make decisions. And e-commerce retailers are just starting to catch up…

Customers care about sustainability

For a long time, both customers and retailers thought of sustainability as a “nice to have”. There was a niche in the market for sustainable e-commerce, but it only represented a small portion of sales.

That has changed. Consumers now actively look for sustainable products, services, and post-purchase experience. And because an interest in sustainability is linked to younger age groups, the trend is only set to grow.

  • Millennials and Gen Z are 25% more likely to check the sustainability rating of a product before they buy.
  • 48% of US consumers say they’ve become more concerned about sustainability in the last 2 years.
  • 72% of shoppers are actively buying more sustainable products than 5 years ago.
  • 64% of Americans are willing to pay more for sustainable products.

And the pressure isn’t just coming for consumers. A bill is currently going through the New York State Senate which would set minimum sustainability requirements for large retailers in the state. Outside the US, new regulations are encouraging retailers to set a global standard for sustainable e-commerce, with legislation such as the EU Right To Repair rules coming into force.

No retailer is too big or too small for sustainability in e-commerce. Small and medium businesses have the advantage of local connections, where they can work alongside community initiatives and use local suppliers. Big retailers – such as Amazon and Target – can work on larger structural changes, such as net-zero supply chains and energy-efficient stores.

How retailers can improve e-commerce sustainability

So how can you improve e-commerce sustainability in your business?

Here are just a few of the strategies we’ve seen:

  • Sustainable packaging. E-commerce retailers can now choose from a wide selection of recycled materials, recyclable or compostable materials, and the latest generation of lightweight packaging.
  • Sustainable shipping. Our research shows that consumers love to have a choice of shipping carriers, including sustainable services. Focusing on last-mile deliveries can make a big difference – for example, switching from delivery vans to bicycle couriers. Only 6% of US businesses use carbon-neutral delivery, and only 4% offer a reduced packaging option, so you’ll be ahead of the curve.
  • Sustainable supply chains. When it comes to supply chains, knowledge is power. There’s a reason that the proposed legislation in New York State also mandates a minimum level of data and knowledge about supply chains. When you know where your products are coming from, you can make positive changes.
  • Transparency. Communication really matters here. Consumers will pay more sustainable e-commerce… so you have to let them hear about it! Talk to your customers during the buyer’s journey and the post-purchase experience to show off your green credentials.

Here’s one final point for you to consider: repeated surveys show that consumers want to shop sustainably, but they’re uncertain of what sustainable products, packaging, and delivery look like. The most successful e-commerce retailers are those who step up to educate and communicate.

Find out how other e-commerce retailers are embracing sustainability, with our new report on Operations Experience Management in the US.

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