As a consultative business, Onefeed are keen to learn about the ways in which businesses can create a more environmentally friendly workplace that’s a by-product of online shopping activities.
Our planet and how to protect it has long been the concern of environmentalists, scientists and researchers and for an inordinate amount of time, these facts have infiltrated into our everyday lives. Recycling is far more prevalent, our knowledge on plastic and how damaging it can be has increased, pollution levels and global warming feature heavily on our screens. If your business hasn’t looked at this already, then there’s no time like the present.
When online shopping was in its infancy, there was hope that this would reduce the number of cars visiting stores and therefore pollution. In short it was thought 1 van could deliver 30 people’s goods instead of 30 people, each driving a separate car, to get that 1 product. It sounds good right? However, its clearly not as cut and dry as that and it’s proven that the impact on the environment is something we all need to consider.
So as online retailers, what can we do to be conscious of our day to day effect on the planet and make greener choices? There are many elements that can be improved and can make a huge difference to our planet overall. Let’s look at the different areas and small tweaks that could make a significant impact.
This is the biggest area contributing to greenhouse gasses as a business and vans are proven to be more harmful to the environment than a car. As progress marches on, our vans are far better than in the early stages of online delivery, but we still have a long way to go.
It is essential that the automotive industry takes the reigns and leads the way with environmentally considerate transport methods, in every single area. This is out of the hands of logistics businesses to a degree – and supply and demand will always mean that and element of these pollution producing vehicles on the market and therefore the road.
How many people own an electric car? More than 10 years ago and less than fast forwarding to 10 years’ time, but it’s still not the case that most people have one and this is mirrored for delivery businesses. The available volume of these gas producing vehicles is higher than electric and naturally means courier businesses will always be able to add them to their portfolio of vans at a competitive price. Without the budget, which would be huge to replace a fleet, or the correct incentives to do so then we will see this area have lag time to catch up with the environmental demands.
Logistic businesses are always looking for ways to be as efficient such as being logistically savvy, and the government has a number of useful links with regards to this topic, as well as carbon foot printing tool:
Knowing what your emissions are is a good start. If your business is not looking at this then why not? Talking profits, you are missing a big opportunity to market yourself as an environmentally friendly business. Trends show us that the move towards greener, cleaner more environmentally caring business is substantial. You should be part of this and use it to your benefit at the same time.
Below is a very interesting article from Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT) which goes into more ideas and depth on greener logistics. It’s an interesting read and offers some solutions to these real-world problems.
Masses of product is shipped everyday globally. Each item has packaging, a receipt and, in a lot of cases, marketing information in the parcel. Everyone has seen a small item arrive in a packet that could contain a ship and thought ‘’wasteful’’. We have also got a packet that has been damaged and thought ‘’should have been wrapped properly’’ – we are hard to please!
With such a difficult balance to strike online retailers are at the mercy of the customers opinion. Consistently receiving damaged goods costs business a lot of money – but the highest cost is the fact your customer will just purchase their goods elsewhere if the receive consistently poor service at any stage of the buying cycle.
At the very basic level, this common-sense logic should be left at the hands of the employees packing the goods themselves but motivating a team of people who do long hours and, in some cases, not motivated can be near impossible. You can’t teach someone to care – but you can teach people to follow a set of guidelines and education of staff always pays dividends. At the top of these guidelines should be sensible packing instructions which, in part, underpins your green strategy
Is the wrapping you use recyclable or bio-degradable? It should be, and this is a change that can be made with relative ease. Looking at business that ship products and also have a bricks and mortar business, Lush has always been excellent at this. Incentivising further sales by asking people to bring back their empty bottles in exchange for product as well as keeping a good handle on their green initiatives as a business. It works, helps the planet, and it makes money.
Reusable packaging is also a great consideration. Encouraging consumers to buy a forever packet and giving the option to the customer to purchase refills could see significant drops in the non-green production of wrapping. We used to have milk delivered to our homes and leave the bottles out to be collected. Today we throw away the plastic container the milk comes in. Its worth noting here that the fragrance sector has done this for some time, and other markets could follow suit. Given not all products are appropriate for this, but surely the ones that could be should be compelled to join in?
Premises and related packaging
Traditionally, we have seen larger bricks and mortar businesses with huge premises for both selling and housing their stock. This has meant that their presence is in most towns and employs a lot of people in all of these areas. So how has online affected this? If a retailer has a bricks and mortar establishment as well as a warehouse, then the move to online is an added area of the business. Whilst investment in more stock, a larger/extra building, or even the changing of some retail stores to accommodate for customer pick up, it is not an entirely new thing. Existing process will be carried over and looking at new, greener options falling closer to the bottom of the list, if at all. The changes that can be made here are significant and naturally requires an overhaul of your processes but will nether the less will see your unfriendly environmental habits decrease over time.
Is your business paper free where possible? Do you use plastic such as cups etc and if so why are these not replaced with real mugs and plates that last more than one use! France has banned plastic cutlery and so should we in the UK. Some plastic is proven to take 450 years to degrade and some although stated can be recycled, never degrades. In the UK alone we drink 7 million cups of coffee in disposable cups, every single day! Some of this waste inevitably gets into businesses, food wrap and convenience foods have changed the way we eat and store food, but it’s also changing the planet.
Does your business provide the ability to recycle? The waste each person creates is considerable and as human beings we spend most of our time at work, hence so does our waste. In the US we see 2.5 million plastic bottles thrown away every hour which is a terrifying statistic. Bottled water could easily be swapped for a clean water tap. Even more scary, the US throws away ‘’enough garbage every day to fill 63,000 rubbish trucks, which if lined up end to end for an entire year would stretch half way to the moon’’. We all must act now and we all have a responsibility to care for the environments we are in.
As online retailers continue to grow, so does the range of products available. As people we used to visit a bricks and mortar store for clothing. With the options now available online we have seen a shift towards this method of shopping in recent times. This is great, but due to the nature of clothing, returns are inevitable. For example, issues such as fit, the colour isn’t what was expected, consumers order two of the same item in different sizes and return the unsuitable size, cannot be avoided. It’s not just clothes that get returned, of course all retailers’ products that are sold online have a returns policy. This creates paperwork as well as packaging for returns and a green strategy for this should be considered.
An idea could be to ensure the customer keeps the original packaging. Printing a return address and product code etc of the actual packet used for delivery will encourage people not to destroy it and use additional wrapping at the point of return. One step further, would be to shred this packaging on its return and use it to pack future goods.
As businesses we are swamped with our ‘’to do’’ lists and often greener initiatives are not our priority. Making your business legacy profitable as well as green means you and yours will have longer to enjoy the many years of hard work you have put in.
USA today cites several studies and the following sums up perfectly the sentiment above:
· If everyone in America recycled just one plastic bottle, those materials could make more than 54 million T-shirts or about 6.5 million fleece jackets
· If everyone recycled one aluminium can, 295 million new aluminium cans could be made, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 6,750 passenger cars off the road and save energy equivalent to 80 thousand barrels of oil
· If everyone recycled one plastic bag, those materials could be reused in making 28,906 park benches or 144,530 16-foot composite deck boards
All business could and should commit to making 1 greener change, helping 1 environmental cause – and we should all be wholeheartedly committing to is raising awareness. This the very barest minimum. Get local with your ideas – take responsibility for recycling your own waste, pick up litter at the beach, forest, park – wherever if you see it. We all must pull together to make a change before it’s too little too late.