As part of the past two COP summits, world leaders have pledged to invest more in sustainable packaging materials. For instance, reducing the pollution caused by single-use plastics by 2030 is a crucial target for governments worldwide.
In the UK, we have already taken a step towards this goal by banning plastic straws. But with more work to do, it is now up to e-commerce sellers to step up their game and look for ways to incorporate sustainable packaging materials into their business model.
This article will go into more detail as to why online businesses should invest in eco-friendly packaging as standard. We’ll also offer tips on finding suppliers that prioritise sustainable packaging materials for their white-label goods.
Why switch to eco-friendly packaging?
The rise of the e-commerce industry has seen an increased demand for reliable packaging solutions. Online retailers need reassurance that their goods will arrive on their customer's doorsteps –– in one piece –– to keep customer satisfaction scores high.
‘Functional, sturdy and cheap’ have been the three main qualities online retailers are concerned with when choosing packaging suppliers. But this list is rapidly shifting to include ‘eco-friendly’.
Consumers who regularly buy from e-commerce retailers are used to seeing packages delivered to their homes. Sometimes their items come in large boxes that are difficult to pack down. Then there's the added annoyance of only having a limited amount of space for recyclables you can put out for collection each week.
Very few people want to spend time cramming boxes into recycling bins. Even fewer people have time to take their recycling surplus to local recycling centres. They would prefer more innovative packaging solutions — biodegradable packaging, for instance. Or maybe just smaller boxes that offer the same level of protection as boxes within boxes packed with hundreds of plastic packing peanuts that end up getting spilled everywhere!
Consumer frustration doesn't end with large boxes that clutter up hallways. Many people also dislike the number of single-use plastics accompanying their online orders. In some cases, these materials can't be recycled and just end up in landfill sites. Single-use packaging materials repel consumers who care about pollution and have seen the pictures of 'trash islands' in the pacific ocean. In general, customers want to be reassured that the brands they buy from feel as frustrated with the environmental impact of modern life as they do.
A 2020 survey by McKinsey & Company found that 70% of consumers would pay a premium to shop with brands that offer more sustainable packaging solutions. Competition in e-commerce is fierce across all industries. One option e-commerce companies have to differentiate themselves from other brands is packaging their products in new and exciting ways.
So, if you want your products to stand out from the competition, get ahead of the game with eco-friendly packaging. You could see your sales increase amongst audience segments that share the same ‘greener’ values.
Easy ways to reduce environmentally harmful product packaging
As an e-commerce seller keen to reduce their packaging carbon footprint, the first thing you should do is look for ways to reduce the amount of packaging you send out with your goods.
For instance, one of the easiest things you can do right now, is to look for ways you can market your products in bundles. Encourage your customers to order multiple products that can be shipped in just one parcel.
If you use print-on-demand services to bespoke-print your packaging, consider cancelling this process. Instead, use plain packets and save on printing costs and reduce ink’s environmental impact.
Similarly, if you like to include inserts in your packaging (such as discount coupons) switch these offers to email discount codes. Add these messages to your order confirmation emails for a more environmentally friendly sales incentive.
Offset your company's carbon footprint by signing up to charities that plant trees. Send a marketing blast to your customers, letting them know that you will donate a certain percentage of your sales profits to carbon-offsetting charities like Planetly. Provide a link in your email newsletters to encourage recipients to contribute to good causes in addition to buying from your site.
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Invest in sustainable packaging materials
Look for revolutionary sustainable packaging materials you can incorporate into your supply chain. For instance, you may want to check out the following products:
Geami acts like bubble wrap but is made out of craft paper. Geami, which uses a clever honeycomb structure to fit around products snuggly, and can be produced without electricity, uses manual machine folding techniques. Geami wrap also features an angled edge, allowing warehouse packing teams to fasten packages without the need for parcel tape.
Notpla paper's moniker is a clever shortening of the phrase 'not plastic' as the material is precisely that –– not made from plastic. Instead, this sustainable packaging material — a byproduct of various industrial processes — is made of seaweed fibres. Notpla paper has myriad uses in e-commerce. Amongst the most popular uses for Notpla is cosmetics packaging. It has a mottled surface texture, and the aesthetic fits in nicely with eco-conscious brands. The paper is also printable, so you can add your logo and bespoke designs.
Compostable apparel bags
Compostable apparel bags are similar to the biodegradable carrier bags you see in supermarkets. Now, many apparel manufacturers let e-commerce sellers design their own compostable apparel bags, too — and these biodegradable bags provide the same amount of protection for your clothing shipments as plastic bags.
Compostable apparel bags can be designed to match Amazon and other marketplaces’ fulfilment requirements, and can be fully customised to include your company logo and sizing information. Bags made from biodegradable polymer can be thrown away as food waste, and they take around six months to decompose completely.
Gummed paper tape
Consider switching from plastic to gummed paper tape to seal your eco-friendly packaging. Plastic tape can be harmful to the environment, and it is non-recyclable. In contrast, gummed paper tape is easy to recycle, and the glue is non-toxic and solvent-free. Gummed paper tape offers a strong hold under a wide range of temperatures, and it is also tamper-resistant. Once the seal on the tape breaks, it is visibly obvious that the package has been tampered with.
If you use a supplier service such as Alibaba or AliExpress, a simple search of 'recycled packaging' or 'eco-friendly packaging' will bring up hundreds of results. You can find manufacturers from all over the world that will offer small marketplace sellers sustainable packaging materials that suit their budgets.
Whether you need boxes made from layered recycled Kraft paper or biodegradable cosmetics bottles and jars, many eco-friendly packaging products are around the same price as standard non-recyclable packing materials. So, make sure that you get in touch with a reliable supplier to discuss your printing and packing needs.
Recycled organic cotton
Print-on-demand clothing brands can switch their materials to organic cotton. Cotton fabric is a manufacturing choice, rather than a packaging material, but it makes sense to switch away from synthetic fabrics if you want to establish your brand as a forward-thinking, environmentally friendly company.
If you don't sell clothing items in your e-commerce store, you can also look at wrapping your goods in reusable tote bags made from organic cotton. Print your company logo on the front of these bags and make the most of the free offline advertising your customers give you when they use your packaging to pick up groceries from the supermarket.
Use a fulfilment service that specialises in eco-friendly packaging
Depending on where your fulfilment company is located, you can contact your account manager and ask them to start using customised sustainable packaging materials for your products. Many companies also offer specialised and tailored services to suit your environmental needs. For instance, some green-focused fulfilment brands around the world include:
- NextSmartShip (China) can offer sustainable packaging materials and environmentally friendly fulfilment services.
- Green Fulfilment (UK) uses recyclable packaging materials and is committed to donating to environmental causes.
- Byrd (Europe) offers environmentally friendly fulfilment services and can advise you on how to make your shipments more eco-friendly.
Your fulfilment liaison officer can also let you know if they have sustainable partners that can provide you with a reasonable rate for eco-friendly packaging materials.
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