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There’s no doubt about it…the modern consumer (and investor) values sustainability, actively searches for companies that offer sustainable options, and will pay extra to reduce their environmental impact. If you still have any doubt, just consider these key statistics from a study of 1,000 American consumers (source and source):

  • 75% of US consumers surveyed are concerned about the environmental impact of the products they buy
  • 69% say a product’s environmental impact is important to their purchasing decision
  • 66% of all US consumers surveyed will pay more for sustainable products versus less sustainable competitors; when looking at just the 18 to 34 age group, that willingness jumps up to 80%
  • 64% of all US consumers expressed interest in offsetting carbon emissions from their gas purchases by paying extra; that percentage rises to 75% for 18 to 34 year olds
  • 73% would like company rewards programs and 64% would like credit cards that help offset the environmental impact of their purchases
  • 60% would invest in a company that is seen as sustainable over one that does not have that appearance

E-Commerce, Packaging, and Sustainability

E-commerce has experienced explosive growth in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, with potentially devastating environmental impacts. Even before COVID, e-commerce has long been seen as the enemy of sustainability, mostly due to packaging inefficiencies leading to high return rates and waste, along with the environmental impact of direct-to-consumer shipping.

Amid the fast rise of e-commerce, consumers have also made it clear that they prefer sustainable packaging for e-commerce orders, a fact shown by these statistics from a 2020 global survey by McKinsey & Company:

  • 60 to 70% of consumers said they would pay more for sustainable packaging
  • 52% of consumers said they would buy more products with sustainable packaging if those products didn’t cost more than conventionally packaged ones
  • Around 35% of respondents would buy additional sustainably packaged products if they were more available in stores, available for more products, and better labeled (to indicate green packaging)

Ways to Add Sustainability Measures to Packaging Practices

So what can you do to boost sustainability practices for your products distributed via e-commerce channels and‌ boost consumer confidence and sales? There are already several tactics that e-commerce companies can employ to reduce their carbon footprint and let everyone know about it. A few of our favorite tactics to try to include:

  • Use packaging made of recycled content
  • Use recyclable or multi-use packaging
  • Try innovative packaging materials that eliminate air voids
  • Participate in a carbon-neutral shipping program, or explore drone or EV delivery options
  • Encourage customers to use package pickup points instead of home delivery
  • Start an aggressive social media campaign to advertise your sustainability efforts

Make Your Sustainability Efforts Known

We’d say that getting the word out is arguably the hardest, and one of the most important, parts of a successful sustainability initiative. The consumer’s willingness to pay more for products made by sustainability-focused companies, despite record high inflation, is thwarted by difficulties in identifying those companies (source):

  • 78% of survey participants said they don’t know how to identify environmentally friendly companies
  • When companies make sustainability claims, only 38% of US consumers believe them 
  • 45% of those surveyed believe it’s hard to maintain sustainable purchasing habits
  • 41% felt that US companies are doing a bad job implementing sustainable practices 

Consumers also rely heavily on labeling and third-party/independent certifications to verify sustainability claims (source):

  • 72% of US consumers who actively shop for sustainable products use labels or third-party certifications to verify a product’s sustainability claims
  • 50% of US consumers said that on-product labeling with clear language is important

Use Packaging as Sustainability Initiative Advertising

So consumers want sustainable e-commerce products with sustainable packaging, and they’re willing to pay more for it. They just need a little help figuring out who to give that money to. That’s where smart packaging comes into play.

Do you use recycled content in your packaging material? Have you ditched single-use packaging in favor of multi-use? Do you only ship with a carbon-neutral logistics program? Are your products certified or verified with an organization that reviews sustainability claims? Then let everyone know!

Put information about your sustainability efforts everywhere you can. On your product packaging, on your shipping packaging, in your advertising, on your receipts and invoices…literally everywhere! Your biggest obstacle to earning a positive return on investment for sustainability issues is your customers not knowing what you’re doing. You need to be shouting from the rooftops everything your company is doing to reduce its environmental impact so that every possible customer is exposed to the message. 

Think that it’ll be too costly to promote your sustainability efforts? Well, the most sustainable companies on the planet consistently outperform their less sustainable competition by a large margin. The writing is on the wall – if you want to succeed in today’s economy, make sustainability a priority, and make sure everyone knows!

Packaging Equipment to Support Your Sustainability Goals

Econocorp offers a full line of customizable cartoners, tray formers, and case packers to help your company meet its sustainable packaging goals. Our cartoners support a wide variety of packaging materials and setups, including multi-use glass and plastics. Once your product is boxed, our case packers will load that product into shipping-appropriate cases with minimal waste. For more information on how Econocorp can help revolutionize your production line for tomorrow’s market, call us at (781) 986-7500, email, or contact us online.