As consumer awareness of the environmental impact of online purchases grows, sustainability becomes a larger and a more strategic issue for supply-chain leaders. With e-commerce sales expected to double in the next decade, business leaders will be challenged to find eco-friendly and carbon-neutral solutions for their e-commerce fulfillment operations. These initiatives will shape the future of businesses for years to come.
When it comes to sustainability initiatives, businesses need to shift from a focus on short-term financial performance to one that emphasizes long-term effects and strategic implications. In order to be successful, companies must reevaluate their e-commerce fulfillment operations, challenge conventional thinking, and look for eco-friendly best practices that offer sustainable distribution solutions to organizations and, ultimately, customers.
Companies on the forefront of adopting sustainability as a strategic initiative are viewing it as a journey, starting with “quick-win” initiatives and followed by plans to move into larger and more capital-intensive projects. Among the most impactful areas that companies at the forefront of adoption are currently focused on is packaging.
Understanding that pollution is a growing problem across the globe, and packaging waste a large contributing factor, companies are beginning to respond by seeking out more sustainable packaging alternatives. In recent years, polybags have been widely adopted by retailers because of their effectiveness in preventing damage to product throughout the supply chain. Now, however, companies are looking for alternatives to polybags due to their negative environmental impact. One popular solution is biodegradable packaging, made from recyclable, plant-based materials.
Companies looking for an impactful first step in their sustainability journey are experimenting with “right-sizing” packaging. The technology for on-demand packaging in e-commerce is being adopted in greater numbers and across industries. Removing over-boxing by shipping in the original carton is also becoming more commonplace.
Packaging initiatives are yielding positive environmental impacts and strong financial returns to the bottom line. By cutting back on additional plastic and packaging, manufacturers and retailers are also reducing transportation costs and improving shipping density. E-commerce native brands, as well as Amazon, are embracing this solution.
Packaging is on the front line of the consumer’s brand experience. At the same time, business leaders mustn’t overlook the impact of their distribution centers on the environment. Companies at the forefront of retrofitting their DCs are discovering a wide range of green solutions.
A focus on recycling, eco-friendly building features, and LEED certification of energy efficiency are some of the ways that companies are becoming greener. They’re also evaluating automation and new material-handling equipment with an eye toward its environmental impact. Such considerations are becoming part of companies’ criteria when evaluating technology partnerships.
Manufacturers, distributors and retailers can no longer overlook the importance of minimizing their impact on the environment. More than ever before, business leaders have a responsibility to adopt sustainable supply chain solutions. In the future, companies will increasingly shape strategic initiatives with sustainability in mind. Brands that embrace the challenge will be embraced by consumers.
Diana Mueller is an account executive at Fortna.
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