People are becoming more and more aware of the devastating impact fast-paced consumerism has had on the planet. Now, they are looking for ways to be sustainable and environmentally conscious in all aspects of life—especially when it comes to choosing which products to buy. But it doesn’t stop there.
People are searching for companies that are green in every facet of their operations, and that includes shipping. If you import a completely biodegradable product, your customers will probably overlook your sustainable efforts if it arrives wrapped in styrofoam and is placed in an oversized box.
More than that, businesses have a major responsibility to cut down on their environmental impact. Shipping emissions account for a huge percentage of global CO2 emissions. That means business owners should feel the responsibility to make a difference in this area.
Here are 10 best practices for sustainable shipping, making your business stand out as green through and through:
1. Use sustainable/compostable packaging.
There are so many options for sustainable, biodegradable, and compostable packaging that there’s no excuse for using boxes with low recycled content. Look for packaging that’s been certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council. Or go for Cradle to Cradle certified boxes, which are made exclusively of recycled material and utilize ink and adhesives that don’t hurt the environment.
It’s a little more expensive to go fully green with your packaging, but it can be a worthwhile investment. Your customers will appreciate the effort you’ve made towards true sustainability—and may be more willing to pay a higher price for your products.
2. Minimize filling material.
Have you ever received a box in the mail and had to dig through layers of packing peanuts, plastic, or styrofoam to get to the tiny product you ordered? That can be extremely frustrating and off-putting for customers with a green mindset.
Obviously, it’s vital to protect your product, especially if it’s made out of glass or other fragile materials. But make every effort to minimize the filling material. Consider utilizing eco-friendly filler, such as corrugated inserts or organic starch cushioning.
3. Ship in bulk.
This one is really an environmental game-changer. If you have an import/export business, you’re uniquely situated to take the initiative of shipping in bulk. It’s up to you to model the green way forward.
Shipping in bulk not only reduces environmental impact; it saves you big bucks. Rather than receiving small shipments once a week from your suppliers, ask them to ship a larger shipment once a month or once every few months. Or tell them to wait until they’ve produced 200 or 500 items before shipping.
Are you interested in importing apparel into Canada? Find a complete guide here.
4. Provide a green shipping option.
Let’s be honest. Most customers are primarily motivated by saving money—even those who value sustainability. You can take advantage of this by offering a green shipping option that’s slower but completely free to your customers.
People normally expect one-day or two-day shipping, but with the dual benefit of being green AND saving money, they might just be willing to wait a week or two to receive your valuable (and sustainable) products. Don’t forget to inform your customers how their green choices make a difference in our world.
5. Consider your returns policy.
There are several adjustments to your returns policy to promote sustainability. For example, use biodegradable boxes that can easily be reused for returning unwanted products. Or if you’re ready to take a more extreme step, have a no-return policy (with the exception of defective merchandise, of course). Explain to customers that your reasons for this policy are purely green. Encourage them to think carefully before purchasing your product.
If a defective product is inexpensive, you might send a new product without requiring the old one to be returned. You can also offer a program to return used containers of your products if you’re selling something like candles or lotion. Research if recycling returned containers outweighs the environmental cost of customers shipping them back to you.
6. Partner with the right shipping companies and fulfillment centers.
All your efforts towards sustainability will be in vain if your shipping companies and fulfillment centers don’t share your green values. To find low-emission shipping companies, check out the US Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Program, which includes Canada-based and other international companies as well.
Don’t forget about your fulfillment centers. If you can claim to be completely sustainable from production through the entire shipping process, you’ll gain serious credit with your customers.
7. Reduce package sizes.
Committing to small packages is essential. Not only does it prevent the use of excess filling materials, but it also makes a difference in how much space is needed on a plane or truck. That cuts down on carbon emissions as a result.
If your products are large, brainstorm ways to make them compact. Break them down into multiple pieces so they can easily fit into a smaller box. The most important thing is to stick to the minimum amount of space necessary for your products.
Wondering how you’ll overcome the difficulties of COVID-19 in your import/export business? Check out these tips.
8. Convert to package pickups.
This is an excellent way to go green in more ways than one. You’ll be keeping the Earth green while also keeping an eye on the green in your budget. And you’ll save yourself valuable time.
Most major delivery routes are already fuel-efficient and have a rather consistent environmental impact regardless of how many people utilize them. You could become even more sustainable by arranging for package pickups instead of driving to the shipping office yourself. It eliminates excess travel which reduces your use of fuel.
9. Donate to offset your carbon footprint.
No matter how hard you try, you’ll probably end up with some measure of negative environmental impact caused by your shipping practices. Find a carbon offset program so you can mitigate these effects with a donation. Consider passing this vision on to your customers by offering a carbon offset option at checkout.
Be responsible in your research. Some programs aren’t transparent about how they actually use carbon offset donations. It’s pointless to feel good about the difference you’ve made without checking to ascertain the true destination of your donations. And don’t use your carbon offset donations to exonerate your company from the burden of taking action in more pivotal ways.
10. Go digital with packing slips.
It may seem simple, but going completely digital with packing slips and other paperwork can make a difference. Think about all the invoices and lists which are created for just one shipment.
Implementing a digital system may be a significant investment, but it will pay off in the long run if you explain the importance to your customers.
It’s more vital than ever to adopt green values. Every business can take steps to make its practices more sustainable. This is your chance to change the trajectory of the future—and become known as a pioneer in pursuit of a greener Earth.
Searching for an ally who’s equipped to figure out all the shipping details for you without sacrificing your values? BorderBuddy is here to help. We provide solutions for any size business, so give us a call today!