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Tuesday, 5 March 2024
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Sustainable online stores: 7 tips for sustainability in e-commerce

Every e-commerce company is dependent on consumer behavior, which is constantly changing. One aspect that is currently having a strong influence is the growing awareness of sustainability. This is not only about effects on the climate, but also about working conditions and economy. Sustainable online stores are therefore becoming increasingly popular. A study by the BDEW shows that 74.5% of respondents would already change their personal behavior just for the sake of the climate and preserving our environment.

If a change in consumer thinking takes place, companies must meet this demand. In this article, we show you what you can do to be at the forefront of sustainability and what challenges and opportunities await you.

If you too would like to make your online store more sustainable and need help in doing so, we will be happy to provide you with advice and support. Contact us now

What does sustainability in e-commerce lead to?

Quite apart from the fact that sustainability makes life on our planet worth living in the long term, there are numerous benefits for your company. The growing interest in a sustainable lifestyle is having a noticeable impact on the population's consumer behavior. According to a press release from bitkom, around 60% of Germans would accept longer delivery times if stores paid more attention to sustainability in return. The pwc study also confirms the trend toward greater sustainability: German consumers are willing to pay up to €2.34 more for environmentally friendly delivery.

Sustainability is not only associated with the thought "I'm doing something good." but is also a sign of high quality and trust for consumers. By making your e-commerce store sustainable and being transparent and honest about it, you can increase customer loyalty and, in turn, your sales. However, you can not only increase the number of your customers, but also save money by using less packaging and electricity. If you work together with regional producers and suppliers, your delivery routes and delivery times will be reduced at the same time.

Customer opinion is particularly important when moving to more sustainable e-commerce. A sustainable image and campaigns should always fit the company and product, as marketing this characteristic is walking a fine line. On the one hand, sustainability stands for higher quality, but on the other hand, brands whose sustainable advertising message doesn't suit you will be seen as untrustworthy. Once interest has been aroused and trust secured, the aspect of sustainability offers a unique selling proposition that sets your brand apart from the (larger) competition.

Reading Tip: How you already place yourself optimally in the search engines, you will learn in our SEO guide.

Tip 1: Set a good example

When you personalize your brand, your customers see you as a role model. Show your way to more sustainability in the company and in everyday life. For example, you can increasingly do without your car and ride your bike instead or rely on a green power provider for your office.

If CO2 emissions cannot be avoided, you can donate part of your revenue to various organizations that work for sustainability. In this way, you can offset some or all of the CO2 you cause. Regularly review the current state of your company and where there is potential for improvement.

Build your customers' trust in your brand with clear communication. Stay transparent, honest and avoid green washing. By using industry-standard seals of approval, it is clear at first glance that your "green" promises are authentic and credible.

Tip 2: Check your service providers and partners

If you want to take a step towards sustainability with your company, you must also select your service providers accordingly. Check whether sustainable materials and production processes are used. In addition, your service providers should also pay attention to social working conditions and fair wages.

Working with regional partners brings a number of advantages. Not only does it make it easier for you to communicate with each other, but you can also save time and money. Our customer Shape Republic sets an example and relies on regionality in the production of its popular fitness shakes.

Tip 3: Shopify as a sustainable store system

If you are still planning your store or thinking about relaunching your old store, consider Shopify as your store system. The company has managed to become carbon-neutral in recent years by offsetting all of the CO2 it produces. Shopify educates people about its own actions and has set up a sustainability fund through which at least $5 million is dedicated to reversing climate change each year.

But it's not just the company itself that acts sustainably. The platform's data centers are powered by renewable energy, which automatically makes every Shopify store carbon-neutral on the technical side. To further facilitate the step towards sustainability for store operators, Shopify offers various tools and apps on the topic.

One of these is the Planet app. Companies can use it to make their orders climate-neutral. What's more, they can then integrate an icon into their store that points customers directly to environmentally friendly shipping.

The Verdn app focuses in particular on end customers. When using the app in the store, online shoppers are offered various options for offsetting the CO2 caused by their purchase. They not only make an anonymous payment, but also select a specific project and receive regular updates on its development. As a store owner or operator, you can get your customers directly on board in this way and exert a joint influence.

Reading Tip: Are you looking for more good tools for your store? Read our post about the 11 best Shopify apps.

Tip 4: Rethink your shipping

Packaging and shipping play a particularly large and important role in e-commerce. It is precisely at these points that you can change a lot to become climate neutral.

First, banish plastic from your packaging and shipping materials. There are numerous alternatives that are reusable and, in the best case, made from recycled materials. But only use what you really need. In detail, this means use appropriate packaging sizes. For example, don't send a record in a box the size of a toolbox with thousands of cardboard snippets as filling.

Sustainable packaging becomes visible with appropriate branding. Customers will be particularly aware of the added value and will have a good feeling when buying your products.

Not only the packaging is important for sustainable shipping, but of course also the delivery itself. Our customer Vogue relies on sustainable shipping with the GoGreen service of Deutsche Post DHL Group. With the service, the CO2 caused by the shipments is compensated for as completely as possible. The service provider also works to not only offset CO2 emissions, but to avoid causing them in the first place.

Another way to make shipping more sustainable is to avoid partial deliveries. This not only reduces the CO2 footprint, but also saves resources and packaging waste.

Tip 5: Avoid unnecessary parcel inserts and inlays

You can avoid unnecessary waste not only with packaging, but also with parcel inserts and inlays. Here are some reasons why:

  • Reduce packaging waste: superfluous parcel inserts and inlays increase the volume of packaging materials, which are often only used for a short time and then disposed of. By removing them, less packaging waste is produced, which helps to reduce the environmental impact.

  • Saving resources and costs: The production of parcel inserts and inlays requires resources such as paper, ink and energy. By eliminating these additional packaging elements, you can optimize the use of resources and help conserve natural resources. Another advantage, of course, is that you can save a lot of money per year by doing without them.

  • Reducing the CO2 footprint: The production and disposal of packaging materials contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases. By reducing unnecessary parcel inserts and inlays, you can reduce your carbon footprint and make a positive contribution to climate protection.

  • Improving the brand image: Many consumers value sustainability and it can have a positive impact on the brand image. Retailers who eliminate unnecessary packaging elements and adopt environmentally conscious practices can strengthen the trust of their customers and increase their brand loyalty.

Tip 6: Adjust your returns strategy

Returns also pollute the environment with more emissions, plus they create costs for your business. So your goal is to give your clientele as few reasons as possible to return goods.

You can start by not offering free returns. However, as a store owner, you should consider whether you need the free returns offer more as a marketing tool and instead avoid returns in other ways as much as possible. Consumers demonstrably order more products if they do not expect any additional costs for return shipping. This means they don't have to think hard about their purchase decision before ordering, but can still do so at home without having to pay for the cost of returns.

To facilitate purchase decisions already online, you should present your products as tangibly as possible. In the fashion sector, you can achieve this with detailed measurement tables and product photos on a wide variety of body shapes. Describe your products in such a way that your customers can get a good picture of them themselves without holding your products in their hands. For example, compare the feel, size, or shape to an item your target audience is very likely to have at home, or at least easily accessible to everyone. For example, our customer Asphaltgold states whether the item is a loose fit and gives the model's measurements as a comparison.

All returns will be impossible to avoid. Therefore, make the most of the ones you receive. Even before the return, you can offer your customers to send back different orders in the same package. Your customers will save time, only have to take one package to the shipping company, and the emissions caused will also be lower. In the best case, you put the returned goods back on sale and reuse the return packaging. For example, you can attach the shipping label to the package using a banderole, which only needs to be replaced when the package is used again.

Reading tip: You don't just want to adjust your returns strategy? How to optimize your online store in 9 steps, you can learn here.

Tip 7: Inform your clientele

Despite the increasing relevance of the topic of sustainability, the need for information and education is still high. Take your target group along with you on your measures towards a sustainable company and educate them about what they can do themselves. Make clear what impact the decision for "green" shipping has on the environment or what it means to ship all products of an order together and to accept a longer delivery time for it.

Educate your customers about the composition of your prices and what added value they get in return - materially and emotionally. Higher prices are still the biggest barrier to buying sustainable products, which is why online shoppers are more likely to forgo them and opt for the cheaper, less environmentally friendly option.

Examples of sustainable online stores - these companies are leading the way

Some Shopify stores show it: sustainability and e-commerce are not mutually exclusive. Shopify itself also attaches importance to environmental protection and regularly informs about the reversal of climate change in blog posts. The following stores are committed to more sustainability in e-commerce:


ooiaooia also pays attention to sustainability. For example, they rely on climate-neutral shipping. They also use fabrics that are certified and tested for harmful substances according to STANDARD OEKO-TEX®. But of course, the product itself is also a step in the right direction - instead of promoting disposable products like tampons and pads, ooia establishes a durable alternative with washable period underwear.


Asphaltgold is also doing its part to protect the environment. They offer a sustainable alternative to traditional sneakers with vegan sneakers. These can be filtered through their own category. In addition, Asphaltgold also uses recycled materials and thus counteracts plastic consumption.

Cosline Cosmetics

Cosline Cosmetics takes care to reduce packaging waste. In addition, they use padding bags made from 100% recycled paper to cushion their packages. They also make sure to ship goods in padded bags whenever possible, so that they fit in the mailbox and don't have to be delivered another time if customers aren't home.


Vogue also knows about the importance of sustainability in e-commerce. For this reason, they rely on sustainable materials and climate-neutral shipping. They also have the GOTS certificate. GOTS is a global standard for the processing of textiles made from organically produced natural fibers.


Sustainability is also close to the heart of our partner and returns portal 8returns. Especially in the area of packaging, you can put a lot of emphasis on sustainability. The team at 8returns provides valuable tips on the website for reducing or avoiding returns. They also provide information on how returns can be made more environmentally friendly.

Challenges and opportunities for sustainable companies

Probably the biggest challenge for sustainable e-commerce is to convince the clientele of the added value of your own brand. Compromises must be found that allow you to both represent your values and satisfy your customers. Create a material and emotional appeal for your sustainable brand and show that choosing your product means giving up nothing that less sustainable products offer.

This conviction also offers your company its greatest opportunity: strengthened customer loyalty. Use your values as a unique selling point and achieve firm trust through communication with your prospective buyers and a convincing overall package. Keep your target group in focus and thus create the balance between sustainability and customer expectations.

By being open and honest, you build trust in your brand and understanding of your values. It is not necessary that you do everything perfectly from the beginning. Start with small steps and gradually take off. Your sustainable thinking will soon ensure a good image that you can use to woo customers and retain them in the long term.

Do you need support in implementing your sustainable store with Shopify or Shopify Plus? We would be happy to assist you. Contact us today!

Frequently asked questions about sustainability in e-commerce

How sustainable is e-commerce?

Attention is also being paid to sustainability in e-commerce. More and more companies are focusing on CO2-neutral shipping, environmentally friendly packaging or waste reduction. Communicate in your store what contribution you make to environmental protection; many customers can identify with a sustainable strategy.

What are sustainable products?

Sustainable products are products that are produced in harmony with nature and people. This means that ingredients, as well as transport, working conditions or resource conservation can be aspects that can determine the sustainability of a product. Waste reduction or saving plastic can also make a major contribution to environmental protection. Probably the best-known examples of this are plastic bags or plastic straws, which have been banned from retail.

What sustainable e-commerce stores are there?

There are some stores that focus on sustainable products, such as ooia, Vogue or Asphaltgold.

How can I tell if a company is focused on sustainability?

There are certificates and seals that companies can use to clearly show what contribution they make to environmental protection and how they implement sustainability in e-commerce.

How can I make my online store sustainable?

To make your online store sustainable, you should rethink your shipping, adapt your returns strategy and avoid unnecessary parcel labels. Communicate in the store what contribution you are making to environmental protection and set a good example.

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