Consumers have never cared more about sustainability, and if eCommerce brands want to foster brand loyalty and retention, they need to make a bigger impact and more importantly — prove to shoppers that they are committed to helping the planet.
We spoke to women from sustainable brands about what they’re doing to make eCommerce more Earth-friendly, and they had a lot to say about authenticity, transparency, and communicating your brand values effectively. Here are six ways you can foster sustainability, make an impact, and forge deeper relationships with your customers.
Consider every part of the product journey
For a product to be truly sustainable, brands need to look at where they source their ingredients, how the products are made, and also look ahead to shipping and what happens when the product reaches the end of its lifecycle.
“Everything from our products to packaging is consistent with our ethos of being a conscious brand,” says Laide O., Founder of Earth-friendly dinnerware brand Pickytarian. “Our tableware is compostable and made from renewable resources such as bamboo and sugarcane pulp, and the packaging they are received in is also compostable.”
Build a sustainable workforce
For truly sustainable businesses, how they operate on a day-to-day basis matters just as much as how their products are made. That means looking at your business holistically — from your office space to your people.
“Over 90% of our staff works remotely,” says Tina Torres, eCommerce and SEO Manager for sustainable shapewear brand Pinsey. “This saves on carbon emissions from our team commuting and in turn massively reduces paper consumption because we are online-based. Resource consumption is something we take seriously and several team members have sustainable home offices with solar panels, low-flow toilets and showers, high-efficiency appliances, and other energy-saving practices.”
Grow connections by telling your story
D2C brands have the opportunity to deepen relationships with customers in a way that huge conglomerates can’t. Humanizing your brand by showcasing the people behind it and what they stand for gives you a chance to build and grow connections and loyalty.
“My husband and I live a certain lifestyle that our audience resonates with,” says Angie Tran, Co-Founder of eco-friendly detergent sheet brand Kind Laundry. “We’re plant based. We love animals. We love nature — all that is real. With other brands in our category, you don’t know who the founder is. They don’t have a story. Our audience gets a sense of what our values are and who we are as people.”
For brands who are walking the walk on sustainability, there are certifications available to help you communicate your commitments and impact. Not only does this help your brand build trust with shoppers, but it helps shoppers cut through the noise and the greenwashing to find brands that align with their values.
“I always say people have to prove things with receipts,” says Jenn Harper, Founder of Indigenous cosmetics brand Cheekbone Beauty. “That’s why we became B Corp certified. I wanted to have receipts to prove that we are doing things differently than many other brands that make sustainability claims.”
Start a recycling program
It’s no secret that the vast majority of plastics don’t get recycled — even when they’re put into a blur bin. By starting a program where customers can mail back product packaging or drop it off somewhere, you can ensure that your products don’t end up in a landfill when they’re empty. Brands can enlist third-party organizations like Pact Collective to help.
“Our entire company is really hyper-focused on how we operate on a day-to-day basis,” says Shontay Lundy, Founder of sustainable personal care brand Black Girl Sunscreen. “We have implemented different programs to encourage our consumers to send back their empties, and identified a landfill that recycles our plastics properly.”
Focus on making an impact, not just sales
Sustainability may be trendy right now, but brands need to think beyond meeting customer expectations if they want to foster customer loyalty. If you want customers to keep coming back to you, you need to truly make an impact.
“If you as a business are just doing sustainability to meet customer demand and you’re not thinking that what you actually do is going to make a difference, then you’re not playing the long-term game,” says Anaita Sarkar, Founder of eco-friendly mailer brand Hero Packaging. “You’re just playing this really short-term game and it’s gonna be really hard to keep customer sentiment alive, especially because you’re not being really authentic with it.”
4 brands that women at sustainable brands love
- Who Gives a Crap: “They make recycled toilet paper and the way they do things is really awesome because they’re always that step ahead of all of us in terms of donating to certain charities, getting certifications, and educating their customers on social media and their website.” — Anaita
- Rent the Runway: “I’m a shopper. I’m a woman that wears an item one time only. So I find myself giving things away or just hoarding. So it’s become really on my radar — what’s happening with all of these clothing, and fast fashion items?” — Shontay
- Patagonia: “I finally read the founder’s book last year, and was just blown away, and then in the media — when he announced that when he dies he’s leaving everything to the planet and the whole company is being left to the planet. I don’t understand legally how that’s going to work, but I think it’s an incredible concept, because I think as human beings, when we think about legacy and the kind of legacy we want to leave for people. It’s important to understand that the Earth is part of that, and I think that’s just amazing.” — Jenn
- Lush: “They have a program where you can return pots for a free face mask. And they’re very transparent. They actually invite their customers and their influencers to come to their factory to tour it, and then they get to interview the directors and the chemists.” — Angie