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3 Simple Ways to Make Your Retail Logistics More Sustainable

Now more than ever, consumers care about sustainability.

As shoppers demand products that are better for the environment, retailers can’t help but take notice. In fact, the consumer packaged goods industry has already started to reap the rewards. In just five years, 50 percent of their growth was attributed to a rise in sustainable products.

Even so, 78 percent of consumers think companies need to do more for the environment. To capture a portion of the money consumers are now spending toward sustainable companies, it’s time companies reevaluate their practises. But the question is, how?

Sustainable practises allow companies to connect with consumers and improve their bottom line — all at the same time. Plus, retail logistics go a long way toward demonstrating to customers that you’re doing right by the environment.


Not sure how to bolster your efforts? Here’s where to start:


The Surprising Environmental Impact of Retail

Sustainability has become a major focus for the retail industry — from supply chain management to shipping and packaging. Nowadays, companies are seeking out best practises to negate their impact on the environment. For example, the fashion industry alone contributes to 8.1 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In this case, streamlining the supply chain or using regional warehouses may help cut back on fossil fuel use.

Surprisingly, e-commerce is now more sustainable than brick-and-mortar retail. By purchasing goods online, the carbon footprint from transportation is reduced by more than 50 percent compared to shopping in-person. Fleet vehicles create efficiency in this scenario by consolidating deliveries on a designated route, instead of consumer vehicles taking individual point-to-point trips. Companies that use electric cars in their fleets for last-mile deliveries, such as Amazon, also reduce the carbon footprint of e-commerce due to lower overall emissions.

You may think the packaging required for e-commerce companies negates the reduced carbon emissions from transportation, but that’s a myth. Even with the addition of parcel packaging needed to deliver a product to a consumer, e-commerce’s overall impact on the environment is 15 percent lower than physical retail shopping due to reduced carbon footprints from fewer deliveries. With this in mind, it’s important for brick-and-mortar companies to implement sustainable practises as well, like using the right size packaging and choosing sustainable materials.

What can really boost sustainability is educating customers to help increase recycling rates by making small changes in the packaging. In the U.S., only 13 percent of plastic containers and packaging are recycled. Consumers are often confused about what can be recycled, but they can be influenced by messaging and labelling. One study found as many as 61 percent of consumers are more likely to recycle if they’re provided with the right labelling — offering that information to consumers via your social outlets, web site or your packaging can be a great way to shore up sustainability initiatives.


The Hidden Benefits of Right-Sizing Packaging

Companies can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability by using the right size packaging for products.

Using the wrong size packaging — whether it’s for a product shipped directly to consumers or placed on store shelves — takes up space in retail logistics and may even make a consumer think the company isn’t serious about environmental initiatives. Imagine the reaction of an eco-conscious customer as they unwrap a small item, such as a set of earbuds, in an oversized box, encased in a clamshell, and wrapped excessively in additional void fill.

In fact, in the e-commerce world, entire websites are dedicated to consumer-submitted photos of tiny items in ridiculously oversized boxes. Pictures of these boxes end up all over social media, undercutting any credibility a company might have regarding sustainability. And when companies use oversized boxes, fewer can be loaded on a truck for delivery — thus delaying shipping speeds.

Choosing the correct packaging for items is critical for sustainability — and it comes with a bonus of cost savings from reducing the weight of the packaging.


Tricks to Help Customers Repurpose and Reuse Packaging

Reusable packaging bolsters sustainable retail logistics efforts, so it’s no wonder this has become a growing focus for companies in recent years. Though COVID-19 concerns have led consumers to leave reusable bags at home, brick-and-mortar retailers can foster sustainability in how they choose to package and bag items. Some retailers have already formed a coalition to reduce the amount of plastic waste from retail shopping bags that ends up in landfills.

The challenge for most companies with reusable packaging is ensuring there’s enough space in the distribution centre to store it, in addition to stocking merchandise. Other companies, such as apparel businesses, avoid this potential issue by shipping items in bags that can be re-sealed for returns.

Companies can go one step further to extend the life of packaging by encouraging creative repurposing. A quick Google search will turn up over three million results for creative ways to reuse cardboard boxes. Some companies print graphics on their boxes, such as step-by-step instructions to create a clubhouse or a truck as a children’s toy. This upcycling can help engage consumers with a brand even more.


Sustainable Logistics Boost the Bottom Line

Ultimately, customers notice what a company is doing to protect the environment, and they’re going to reward more sustainable companies by purchasing from them. Right-sizing packaging, helping customers reuse and repurpose packaging, and choosing sustainable materials can help a company demonstrate its commitment.

Whether your company is in retail or another sector, it’s important that we are all working to reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible. Want to know more about how you can bolster sustainability in your logistics operation?

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