Is E-commerce Sustainable? Reducing Your Impact

Is E-commerce Sustainable? Reducing Your Impact

Is E-commerce Sustainable

We all tried to live a “normal” life during the lockdown, away from friends and family and separated from everything. From weekly quizzes, new hobbies, and watching boxsets but for most E-commerce was our pandemic saviour. 90% of us had a ‘treat yourself’ mentality to entertain ourselves and give us something to look forward to. But with all the shopping we never asked ourselves is E-commerce sustainable?. 

Amazon came to the rescue, as across the UK non-essential stores were forced to close. they gifted us with the convenience of next-day delivery and competitive prices. This made online shopping easy, accessible, and cheap. 

Traditional retail shopping was transformed almost overnight into E-commerce. Online sales grew 46% in 2020 compared to 2019 the biggest spike in e-commerce growth since 2008. 

What about the environment? 

Businesses benefitted from this by opening online stores, but this meant a huge increase in the detrimental element of E-commerce. The usage of delivery vehicles and packaging materials like plastic and cardboard had a huge environmental impact. 

The effects did not go unnoticed, and one source calculated the following: 

  • Only 45% of plastic bottles are recycled in the UK 
  • 32% of all plastic packaging ends up in landfill 
  • Plastic production reached 728,000 metric tonnes in 2021 

An estimated increase of 11,400-17,600 tonnes of additional plastic packaging was used in 2020 due to the lockdown. Not only did this influence plastic but also cardboard packaging alone two billion trees are now cut down every year. On top of that sea, and air used for transporting the ever-growing cargo contributes to increasing emissions. This left brands asking “Is E-commerce sustainable?”

Is E-commerce sustainable? it is possible.

Brands take action 

Is E-commerce sustainable? it is possible. Some brands are driving the space forward despite the huge increase in plastic and cardboard usage. 

Puma has dedicated itself to a greener future and is creating a packaging system that would greatly reduce its environmental footprint. 

Their new innovative packaging will reduce water, energy, and diesel consumption on the manufacturing level alone by more than 60%. 

Tesco has been taking the lead on sustainable packaging choices for UK suppliers. 

The targets in placed by Tesco to address its packaging issues: 

  • Paper and cardboard are to be sustainably sourced by March 2021. This goal has now been accomplished. Brands are to meet this goal by the end of 2022. 
  • Last year Tesco had another goal reached – to rid of a billion pieces of plastic from its portfolio. This year an additional half-billion pieces of plastic is to be removed. 
  • Following a trial of collection points that allowed customers to return previously unrecycled soft plastic, such as the clear film. Tesco is rolling the soft plastics collection points out to approximately 800 large stores.

Eco-friendly Amazon 

Online marketplaces do not get much bigger than Amazon which is getting involved in multiple eco-friendly initiatives to minimise its carbon footprint and strive towards a greener brand after also questioning if E-commerce is sustainable?. 

Co-founding The Climate Pledge in 2019, Amazon is committing to be net-zero carbon by 2040. A growing list of major companies and organisations who play a critical role in investing in the development of low carbon services and products have joined The Climate Pledge since the push by Amazon.  

Amazon has reduced the weight of its outbound packaging by 33% since 2015, eliminating over 1.6 billion boxes weighing in at 915,000 tons of worldwide packaging material. Plastic bags were also eliminated by 27 million in 2020 from their new device. 

The customer packaging experience team at Amazon partnered with AWS as part of the Climate Pledge using Amazon SageMaker to power machine learning solutions. Making more sustainable packaging was a top priority keeping in mind maintaining a high customer experience. 

The program helps them use as little material as possible while still protecting items during delivery. Smaller and lighter packages mean Amazon can pack more orders into each delivery, resulting in fewer trips and less fuel burned— all of which minimise their carbon footprint. 

Amazon also provides options for their customers can reuse, repair, and recycle their products with Amazon resulting in less material in the landfill and circling more back into the economy loop. Information on how to trade in eligible items, recycle Amazon devices and products, recycle Amazon packaging, and how find refurbished products and devices is provided by Amazon Second Chance. 

Smorgas Thoughts 

Is E-commerce sustainable? Eco-friendly E-commerce is certainly being talked about, Amazon, Tesco and Ebay among others are leading the push and upping their game to set an example with their pledges and sustainable business practices. All brands must look at their E-commerce sales and prioritise reducing the waste created for a better planet.

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