Roadmap to Sustainability: 5 Ways Online Businesses Can Get on the Right Path

With more and more businesses focusing on the digital space, how can they adopt more sustainable practices? 

The pandemic saw remarkable growth in online businesses, particularly in e-commerce. At the same time, as technology has become more central to our lives, there has been a growing clamor for eco-friendly, sustainable practices from these companies. The energy requirements of tech companies can be alarming; according to one report, making an image using generative AI can use as much energy as charging your phone.

In a report from the Alibaba Group titled The Sustainability Trends Report 2023, respondents—specifically those from emerging Asian markets (88%)—showed a higher willingness to learn how they can make more environmentally sustainable purchases online. In addition to that, an average of 73% of the respondents said that they would welcome more information about how to make such purchases. 

Given these numbers, it is clear that online businesses should consider looking into sustainable practices. But is it easier said than done?  

5 Ways Online Businesses Can Adopt Sustainable Practices

Here are five sustainable practices that can be adopted by online businesses no matter what market they are targeting. 

1. Choose Eco-Friendly Delivery Methods 

These days, online businesses rely heavily on courier services like Grab, Lalamove, and Borzo to deliver products to customers. However, whether companies opt for motorcycle or four-wheel delivery, these all—for now—rely on fossil fuels. 

It cannot be discounted how practical these delivery methods are as they are all just a few taps away on a smartphone. So how can this be made more sustainable and environmentally friendly?

For starters, business owners can opt to ship their orders in bundles. That means having just one delivery rider for multiple orders. This lessens the number of motorcycles and cars you send out on the road handling just a single delivery.

Online businesses with their own delivery fleet can opt for more eco-friendly options, such as bicycles and electric scooters for nearby deliveries.

2. Ditch Plastic Packaging

Another way online businesses can be more sustainable is through their packaging. While plastic packaging is cheap and convenient, there are alternatives that are more eco-friendly as they are compostable or reusable. 

Recyclable packaging, for example, allows business owners to reuse materials they already have and give them a new purpose. Businesses offering food products can opt to switch to cellulose packaging as it has moisture-resistant properties. Those selling small items can choose mushroom packaging, which is an ideal alternative for such products. 

3. Do Not Practice Greenwashing

According to The Sustainability Trends Report 2023 of Alibaba Group, 23% of consumers say they “do not trust very much” the sustainability claims of products. This is largely because of the practice of greenwashing. 

Greenwashing is defined by Ecwid as “when a business uses marketing to deceive customers into believing that a brand’s products and policies are eco-friendly when they are not.”  

It will only hurt the brand if it pretends to be environmentally friendly when it’s not as this will affect consumer trust. Online businesses should always be honest and transparent when it comes to its sustainability practices. 

4. Offer Sustainable, Eco-Friendly Products

The product itself is also one of the ways companies can showcase a brand’s sustainability. In order to be sustainable, business owners can opt to source products locally and responsibly. They can also offer recycled or upcycled products, or cosmetics made from natural ingredients. 

Business owners can likewise choose to be the suppliers of these locally and responsibly sourced materials. Such materials are often not widely available in markets, which presents an opportunity in itself. 

5. Reduce Waste

In order for any online business to be truly sustainable, it should make an effort to reduce the waste it produces. As previously mentioned, this can be done by making use of compostable and biodegradable packaging, and by grouping orders during delivery. Online business owners should also be mindful not to use large packaging for small items in order not to waste materials. 

Another way that online businesses can reduce waste is by not having a free returns policy. As Ecwid notes, “Shoppers take advantage of that, and order more than they planned.” Not having the option will cause shoppers to be more mindful of their shopping habits. 

Key Takeaways 

“Sustainability” and “eco-friendly” are some of the most popular buzzwords today. And it cannot be denied that the idea of sustainable products appeal to today’s consumers. Online business owners can leverage this to launch new sustainable brands or to shift to more sustainable practices. 

Online businesses should be mindful that the pursuit of sustainability shouldn’t be something they are pretending to do. If a business wants to go down the sustainability route, it should be transparent and honest about it. The same can be said if a business does not have sustainability practices in place.