E-commerce makes fashion industry and consumers happy, but it hurts the earth

Online shopping keeps the fashion industry under blockade, but higher online sales also means more emissions from transportation and more waste packaging. BOF investigates and summarizes how brands can make e-commerce business more sustainable. < / P > < p > e-commerce is booming. But while it’s helping fashion profits rise, it’s also creating a lot of waste – and consumers are starting to notice that. < p > < p > Bernstein predicts that in Europe alone, the growth rate of online fashion will triple this year, accounting for more than 20% of total sales, equivalent to five years’ growth in about six months. Most of these orders are packed in cardboard or plastic, and then loaded into gas guzzling trucks, airplanes and ships. Many of the products will then be returned, requiring another round the world trip before they can finally be sent to landfills. < / P > < p > as consumers and regulators ask brands and retailers to take action on waste and climate issues, solving these issues has become an increasingly important issue for many companies. Although the biggest source of the impact of fashion industry on the environment is manufacturing, as e-commerce continues to grow and become a larger part of consumer life, it is facing increasingly stringent scrutiny. < / P > < p > “we see a clear link between sustainability and sustained business success,” says Kate heiny, director of sustainability at zalando. < / P > < p > last year, the German e-commerce giant found that more than 60% of its carbon emissions are the result of deliveries and returns, although this calculation does not include the carbon footprint of third-party brands in its inventory. The company plans to take measures to significantly reduce the proportion of delivered carbon emissions in total emissions. Nevertheless, this part is mainly responsible for the 6% emission growth in 2019. < / P > < p > when the iconic, an Australian online retailer, promised to use more sustainable packaging, the brand did not expect that the process would take 18 months, nor did it expect that it would require a comprehensive inspection of its iconic brand image. < / P > < p > the company initially considered compost packaging, but eventually abandoned these efforts because most Australians had no easy access to composting facilities. In the end, it chose recyclable bags made from 100% used plastic waste. < / P > < p > this choice is still accompanied by compromise. Packaging must be placed in special bins to ensure that they can be recycled. The icon’s brand logo is a white logo on a black background. It turns out that this new material is hard to print. Black doesn’t look real black, but white ink looks more obvious. So the company reversed the color. < / P > < p > from the beginning, brands should consider the materials they use: can they be reused, recycled, upgraded, and remanufactured, and are they produced responsibly from the start? Can they be lighter and thus reduce the energy needed for transportation? Is there a way to eliminate disposable plastics? There are more and more choices now, although these may be more expensive, brands need to analyze carefully to see if these new materials really represent a better way. Robert Lockyer, founder and CEO of delta global, a luxury packaging supplier, said: “we still need to create some surprises for consumers because you don’t have a store as a touchpoint. But you can still do it and make the packaging sustainable. ” < / P > < p > for e-commerce like zalando, packaging is a major source of waste, but transportation is the biggest cause of direct carbon emissions. The key to reduce the carbon footprint of e-commerce is to reduce the transportation times between warehouses and customers’ families and find cleaner transportation modes. < / P > < p > this also has commercial implications. According to a report of Bain consulting company in 2017, if a brand can double the number of goods purchased by customers in each order and deliver these goods in one shipment, the average carbon emission of each commodity will be reduced by 30%, and the transportation cost will be reduced by more than 50%. < / P > < p > but this is not easy to implement. Big brands may store goods in different warehouses. When customers want the order to arrive as soon as possible, it is not realistic to delay the delivery of all products because one product is out of stock. It is difficult for e-commerce to package and send individual orders from different locations. < / P > < p > in order to simplify the last section of the delivery route commonly known as the “last mile”, zalando tried to set up private pick-up and return points in people’s homes and local stores, which concentrated delivery and pick-up in one place. In other areas, the company is working with regional transport companies to use more environmentally friendly modes of transport, such as freight bicycles or electric vehicles. Help offset carbon emissions where their impact cannot be reduced. < / P > < p > some companies have also made a big bet that customers need to endure slower delivery times to reduce the impact on the environment. These companies used to provide free express service, but now they start to charge for it. Some people think it’s risky. There are also reports that encouraging customers to choose slower transportation can bring about large-scale emission reduction. < / P > < p > “if you offer a free delivery service, of course, people will accept it, but this shift shows that people really don’t need to be so fast, so the benefits are significant from a carbon reduction perspective,” said quantance James. < / P > < p > the right delivery method is only half the success. As we all know, the return rate of clothes purchased online is very high, which means more mileage per package. Another problem is how to deal with unsold goods, which may be out of date or out of season. < / P > < p > according to optoro, a return technology company, there are 5 billion US $400 billion worth of returned products a year in the United States alone. The company estimates that this will generate about 5 billion pounds of waste and 15 million tons of carbon dioxide from landfills. < / P > < p > now, many companies provide more details on how to match products. Some companies are trying to use software to give customers a better view of the appearance of clothing, but many consumers are still buying different sizes of goods online, and intend to return the goods that do not fit after the trial. < / P > < p > brands are becoming more and more mature in how to deal with returns. Optoro uses machine learning to find the best way out for these goods, either to send them back to stores or to discount stores or charity stores. The company said it expects challenges for brands that have already benefited from the growth of online sales, which want to attract customers by extending the return time, as the number of consultations it receives increases as the outbreak of the epidemic. < / P > < p > Larissa summers, senior vice president of marketing, optoro, said: “we expect a large number of returns in the near future when the return deadline comes.” < / P > < p > despite all this progress, many retailers are just starting out. Companies need to act quickly to understand where they can make the most of a difference and with which partners to drive change. < p > < p > beauty brand tatcha is committed to making all its packaging recyclable, reusable, refillable or compostable by 2023. Behind this strategy is a complex decision matrix, which needs to consider the characteristics of each product and how to reduce its impact comprehensively. They have to choose whether to use a different mode of transportation to offset the impact of heavier glass packaging or to test a new material. < / P > < p > “one of the challenges is to think about what resources we need, what is the cost, what is the impact on our partners and suppliers?” said Sarah Curtis Henry, chief marketing officer of the brand. “We have a complete ecosystem.” < / P > < p > for this industry, real transformation requires working with non-traditional partners. For example, an effective shift to packaging that produces less waste requires brands to invest in recycling technology and infrastructure. Similarly, only when the brand can find a way to encourage consumers to pay attention to returns, and make them return to the circulation link through logistics, can the experiment of reusable packaging really work. “We have a circular economy product designed for this linear world, but we need different types of infrastructure,” says jonne hellgren, CEO and co-founder of repack, a reusable packaging service < / P > < p > on the other hand, when consumers and executives reassess the business models they support, many also see the window of opportunity opened by the current crisis. Stuart Lemmon, managing director of the Nordic business of ecoact, a sustainability consultancy, said that after the 2008 financial crisis, “the sustainability market has shrunk significantly, which was largely seen as a dispensable expense at the time. We didn’t see that after the outbreak… Customers, even those who were seriously injured during the blockade, began to really value sustainability, especially their response to climate change. ” Fifth personality will be updated, please remember your game account, otherwise you may not be able to play normally