5 Ways To Implement Sustainable Shipping


Olivia Armistead


January 23, 2023
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Keen to implement sustainable shipping but not sure where to start? Adopting eco-friendly practices in your business can strengthen your customer relationships and brand recall, provide you competitive advantage against sustainability laggards, and even your bottom line in the long run.

Evidently, research by Forbes found:

  • 88% of consumers will be more loyal to a company that supports social or environmental issues and,
  • 92% will be more likely to trust a company that supports social or environmental issues

In Australia, nine in 10 consumers are more likely to purchase ethical and sustainable products according to 2020 research by CouriersPlease. Correspondingly, the survey also revealed that 85% of consumers want retailers and brands to be more transparent about the sustainability of their products.

By supporting more ethical practices in your shipping experience, your customers will be more loyal and also more likely to trust your brand.

So how can you implement more sustainable shipping practices?

1. Rethink your packaging

Know that sinking feeling when you open a package to find mountains of single-use plastic and air cushions, or when you have to hunt through bubble wrap to find a single lipstick?

An abundance of unnecessary packaging can be significantly damaging your brand.

There are many ways you can make your packaging more “green”. Consider a range of boxes on hand that fit each of your products. No more big boxes for tiny products! Many modern order fulfilment companies and 3PLs have automatic cartonisation machines that create custom packages to fit products perfectly.

Use satchels? Consider swapping to recycled mailers. Noissue has a wide range of products made from recycled materials including mailers, tissue paper and even eco-friendly, water activated tape. If your items aren’t fragile, select regular mailers as opposed to padded. Small changes can quickly add up while saving both money and the planet.

Makeup mammoth Mecca offers customers the option to receive their purchase wrapped in sustainable packaging as opposed to the signature boxes. Speaking to Signet, the company they worked with to introduce the eco-friendly option, Mecca Brands IT Delivery Manager Tom McGrath said “We’re always exploring new ways we can innovate and to deliver on what our customers want. As part of our eCommerce business, we were looking to introduce new packaging alternatives, which would reduce our environmental impact and also enable us to get our customers’ beauty goodies into their hands and homes as quickly as possible”.

Lastly, make your products work for you. Dual use satchels are on the rise, with The Iconic using 100% recycled satchels that can also be reused for returns.

2. Source locally

Natural disasters and pandemic restrictions disrupted supply chains globally and many eCommerce businesses were faced with huge delays from suppliers. Evidently, both businesses and consumers were forced to source locally.

The shocking Australian bushfires during January 2020 ignited the “buy local” trend, urging consumers to support local communities struggling to rebuild in the aftermath.

This trend has continued on, creating a new habit for online shoppers. A survey from Statista found that 46% of Australian consumers want to purchase more from local businesses, even after the pandemic.

Freight Australia details the decrease in freight volumes with international freight down by 23% and domestic by 16% due to pandemic disruption.

Local warehousing can be a way to decrease your carbon footprint; location is key for eCommerce shipping options. SKUTOPIA offers micro-warehousing facilities close to CBDs to cut down on transport emissions.

3. Transportation

You can also consider transportation something you can source locally! Storing inventory in mega warehouses creates unnecessary transportation.  However this creates additional, unnecessary transportation. The shipping sector is one of the big carbon emitters and is responsible for more than 2% of global emissions, according to the BBC.

Businesses are rethinking current structures to deliver innovation in warehousing. Advances in robotics and high efficiency automation are helping companies to optimise every available cubic metre. Warehouse optimisation software SKUtopia is enabling just that – allowing warehouse sizes to shrink but stay productive. Utilising smaller warehouses, also known as microwarehouses, means they can be closer to CBDs – and closer for the customer by cutting down ground transport.

4. Distribute Inventory using Software

Let technology help you out! Modern inventory management software uses AI technology to forecast demand if you have multiple warehouses. By optimising the distribution of your inventory based on customer demand, you’ll also save money from cutting down on transportation costs. It will also make sure that when an order is created, inventory from the closest distribution centre is automatically fulfilled.

Inventory management software can also help cut down partial shipments (also known as split shipments). Ensuring the right stock is where it needs to be will eliminate the need to ship different items from separate fulfilment centres which increases carbon emissions.

SKUtopia offers inventory management software to optimise your warehousing.

5. Carbon Offset programs

Unquestionably, environmental impacts of shipping still remain. But what cannot be reduced, removed or reused can be offset with certified programs.

Research from Our World in Data suggests that Australians have an average annual carbon footprint around three times greater than the global average. So to truly reverse climate change and bring balance to our environment, we need to make some major changes to Australian carbon emissions.

What is Carbon Offsetting?

Carbon Neutral explains a carbon offset is generated by an activity that prevents the release of, reduces or removes greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere. There are multiple projects around the world generating carbon offsets from renewable energy and reforestation.

How does it work?

Carbon offsets are evaluated in metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent where one tonne purchased equates to one tonne less of carbon in the atmosphere. Offsets can be purchased to balance emissions that are unavoidable.

Currently there are nearly 800 carbon emissions projects across Australia, including

Interested to know what brands have been certified by Climate Active? Check out the complete list here.

Becoming more sustainable? Tell People About It!

Remember, customers want to select brands that are investing in sustainable practices. If you’re adopting sustainable shipping, let people know about it!

Make it easy for customers to find that your:

  • Packaging is recycled / recyclable
  • Smart warehousing is reducing ground transportation
  • Sourcing offsets international transport or is environmentally friendly
  • Business is adopting sustainable practices and outline your goals/ commitments

Communicate this via social media and on your website on a dedicated sustainability page, and include icons or sustainability credentials on product pages – which are the hardest working pages for eCommerce businesses.

Are you ready to implement sustainable shipping? Let us know what your top considerations are on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn.