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Sustainable Packaging Solutions for the E-Commerce Sector

By 3p Contributor

By Pierre Melion

E-commerce offers great customer convenience and satisfaction. But one of the biggest problems facing the shopping medium is the byproducts and waste produced, the majority deriving from packaging.

Rowena Perrot, general manager of the packaging company Boxtopia says: "The packaging your business produces is a vital part of your brand identity. Creating a nuisance byproduct from your product packaging can connote a wasteful perspective attached to your business."

It is essential that e-commerce companies seek to develop and act upon this area of the customer journey, to follow a more sustainable and ethical practice. Creating sustainable packaging can be rewarding for your organization and its profile, putting you a step ahead of industry packaging trends.

Customer-gained value

The medium of e-commerce is highly dependent on service. Reviewing your tangible and intangible service offerings is vital to inform value through your e-commerce products. The service-dominant logic theory argues that customer value is co-created, involving engagement from both the customer and business. Understanding the co-creation of value is vital for implementing business returns, as well as informing customers of the environmental benefits they gain by purchasing from your business.

Implementing sustainability

Creating more environmentally-friendly packaging can mean you incur higher operational costs. This is why it is important to scope out how you can run a more eco-friendly business, while being able to operate sustainably. Applying theory such as John Elkingston’s Triple Bottom Line model, will allow you to evaluate the social, economic and environmental factors to sustainable business practice. Reviewing your organization in this way highlights areas your business will need to develop to compensate for a potential increase in postage and packaging costs.

Source more responsible materials

Packaging isn’t just a byproduct; it’s part of your brand identity! If your packaging is seen as environmentally wasteful, you may risk lowering your perceived company profile.

Source more environmentally-friendly packaging materials. Depending on the industry you operate in, it’s worthwhile to consider what may be the most environmentally-friendly properties for your product packaging. It may not be the cheapest alternative, but you can still use it to your advantage.

By sourcing more sustainable materials, you can mention it as a unique selling proposition to show that you are an environmentally aware company. The cost can sometimes be a bit higher to source environmentally-friendlier packaging, but the returns can be valuable if it results in creating a greater company profile.  With organizations leading to go more sustainable, why not take the plunge now and become a market role model?

Sustainable design

Sustainable materials are one thing, but maybe your packaging design can create sustainability. Sustainable packaging designs with responsible materials go together hand-in-hand.

The popcorn packaging concept by Diana Chirilas sees packaging as a means of allowing you to proportion your contents. This allows consumers to be less wasteful with the products they buy, with the ability to ration their popcorn. This relationship between the packaging and its contents enforces the idea of sustainability, which goes further than just using responsible packaging properties. This concept can be incorporated into your product packaging to enforce a less wasteful design. This packaging design approach reflects an ethical and sustainable company perspective, both through packaging properties and functionality.  

Instant-light charcoal bags -- which can be used as kindling to light charcoal in a grill -- are another age old example of functional packaging. Again, this packaging holds a strong relationship with its contents. This multi-purpose design makes for an efficient use of a rather cumbersome product. Transportation waste is disposed of with the an easier means of product functionality. The concept behind this design sees for a sustainable and functional form of packaging that can be applied to the e-commerce sector.

What if I have no control over the products I sell?

If you're not directly capable of altering the products or packaging on sale, you can still have an input into leading a more sustainable practice. What you can give back to your customers is information on how they can go about recycling and upcycling the packaging from the products they buy from you. An example of this could be creating an interactive digital campaign which is informative to the viewer, while being engaging enough to gain Web traction. Energy supplier Yū Energy, recently rolled out an engaging interactive campaign that educates customers about how the U.K. sources its energy. This concept could prove an important step to improving your corporate responsibility profile, while educating customers in exciting ways.

An upcycling recommendation example could replicate that of Rosenbaum’s bottle wall project in Brazil. The project saw the design team creating a green wall using upcycled plastic bottles, just one of the upcycling ideas you can recommend your customers buying your products.

What next?

Taking the possible sustainability routes into consideration, you have to make sure your organization can still operate. Reviewing your company’s logistics is key to deciding which method your organization can effectively sustain. And improving your impact on our global environment should not be done silently. Let others know about the efforts your business takes, and maybe you will inspire others to do the same.

Image credit: Pixabay

Based in Nottingham, United Kingdom, Pierre is a digital marketing executive at Impression. He has knowledge within the e-commerce packaging sector, and his role includes improving e-commerce customer engagement strategies. You can reach out via Twitter (@impressiontalk) and Instagram (Impressiontalk)"

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