Ecommerce has experienced an enormous upswing in recent years. More and more people are buying their products online, be it clothing, food or electronics. But what about the issue of sustainability in ecommerce? Is it possible to act ecologically and ethically responsible as an online retailer and also be economically successful? This article provides an overview of the possibilities, opportunities and challenges of a sustainable orientation in ecommerce.
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More and more consumers are paying attention to sustainability aspects when making purchasing decisions. They want to know where products come from, under what conditions they were manufactured, and what impact they have on the environment. A sustainable orientation can therefore be a competitive advantage and help to retain and win customers.
At the same time, it is important that ecommerce itself becomes more sustainable. After all, online commerce not only generates packaging waste and transport emissions, but also a high energy requirement due to servers and data centers. A sustainable approach to ecommerce can help to reduce environmental impact and conserve resources.
Sustainability in ecommerce can be beneficial not only for the environment, but also for customers. Companies that pay attention to sustainability often offer their customers products with high quality, more transparency and more health. It can also give them a competitive edge and foster customer loyalty. Among other things, a sustainable orientation can also offer these advantages for the customer:
Products with better quality: Sustainable products are often more durable and better processed than conventional products. This means that customers enjoy their purchase longer and have to buy substitute products less often.
Environmental awareness: Many customers are environmentally aware and prefer companies that also act in an environmentally conscious manner. If a company pays attention to sustainability in ecommerce, it can gain a competitive advantage and promote customer loyalty.
Transparency: Companies that pay attention to sustainability are often more transparent about their production and supply chains. Customers can thus better inform themselves and decide whether they want to support the company.
Health: Sustainable products are often healthier for the customer because they contain fewer harmful chemicals or additives. This is particularly important for products that are directly applied to the skin or absorbed into the body, such as cosmetics or food.
Social responsibility: Sustainable companies not only pay attention to the environment, but also to working conditions and workers' rights. Customers who value social responsibility can therefore feel good about supporting a sustainable company.
A sustainable approach to ecommerce can take many forms. Here are a few possibilities:
Sustainable products: Online retailers should make sure that the products they offer have been produced in an ecologically and socially responsible manner. Certifications such as Fairtrade, GOTS or the EU Ecolabel can provide guidance here.
Sustainable packaging: Packaging is a big issue in ecommerce. Online retailers should use environmentally friendly packaging wherever possible - such as paper instead of plastic or recycled material instead of virgin material.
Climate-neutral shipping: Transporting goods is one of the biggest environmental burdens in ecommerce. Online retailers can keep in mind here that they offer climate-neutral shipping options or offset the CO2 emissions of their shipments. In the meantime, however, more and more logistics companies are also making efforts to operate sustainably.
Sustainable IT infrastructure: The IT infrastructure in ecommerce can also be made more sustainable. This includes, for example, the use of green electricity, energy-efficient servers or cloud solutions that rely on renewable energy sources.
Sustainable supply chains: Online retailers should attach importance to ensuring that their suppliers and partners also act in an ecologically and socially responsible manner. A transparent and sustainable supply chain can help to strengthen customer trust.
Customer awareness of sustainability: Online retailers can also influence their customers and make them aware of the issue of sustainability through targeted communication and information. This includes, for example, providing information on the sustainability aspects of products, but also communicating the company's sustainability goals and measures.
However, a sustainable focus in ecommerce can also encounter some challenges. Here are some examples:
Costs: A sustainable orientation may initially be associated with higher costs, for example through the use of environmentally friendly packaging or the purchase of green electricity. However, savings can be achieved in the long term, for example through higher customer satisfaction or lower disposal costs.
Complexity: A sustainable orientation in ecommerce often requires collaboration with suppliers, logistics partners and other players in the supply chain. This can complicate the implementation of sustainability measures.
Transparency: A transparent and sustainable supply chain often requires a high degree of transparency and data exchange between the actors. However, data protection concerns or a lack of IT infrastructure can be an obstacle here.
A sustainable orientation in ecommerce can bring both ecological and economic benefits. By taking sustainability aspects into account, online retailers can promote customer loyalty and acquisition, reduce environmental impact, and conserve resources. There are many ways to do this, such as using sustainable products and packaging, climate-neutral shipping, or a sustainable IT infrastructure. However, there may also be challenges such as costs, complexity or transparency that need to be taken into account. A sustainable orientation in ecommerce therefore requires a comprehensive and long-term strategy that includes all players in the supply chain. In the end, however, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages in a sustainable strategy in ecommerce - for customers, retailers, service providers and the planet.
Federal Environment Agency. Sustainability in ecommerce. Retrieved March 15, 2023, from https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/sites/default/files/medien/5750/publikationen/2020_12_03_texte_227-2020_online-handel.pdf
Global Organic Textile Standard. About GOTS. Retrieved March 15, 2023, from https://global-standard.org/de/ueber-uns
Fairtrade International. What is fairtrade? Retrieved March 15, 2023, from https://www.fairtrade-deutschland.de/was-ist-fairtrade