How to Introduce Sustainability into Your DTC Business

Oct. 16, 2023
Sustainability may be popular in e-commerce business, but you should first understand it this way: it’s a movement, not a trend. This is not the same thing as the sustainable development that our domestic sellers are used to understanding. As a sociological category, sustainability has a broader definition.
 According to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) released by the UN in 2023, sustainability includes 17 goals worth striving for in the future.
We can find that not only using renewable materials to manufacture products and reducing carbon emissions during production and transportation, any of the above SDGs is part of achieving sustainability.
Thinking about the positive impact sustainability has on the planet and your brand, why is the concept of sustainability so popular right now?
Here’s the reason:
  1. Waste generated by e-commerce seriously damages the environment
  2. Conscious young consumers in Generation Z are willing to spend more to buy products from a brand with a strong purpose (sustainable brand)
  3. Going green means lowering costs
Today, the concept of sustainability has become the new norm, so how can you get your brand involved and successfully exported?
Here are six ways to introduce sustainability into your DTC business:

Tip1 Contribute sales to an eco-friendly org or cause

Although a bit overwhelming, this may be the easiest first step. It generates immediate consumer goodwill at checkout and doesn’t impact your operations.
American underwear brand Bombas promises that for every product purchased by consumers, the brand will donate the same amount of socks/underwear and other clothes to social institutions such as community shelters and rehabilitation centers. Currently, Bombas has donated to more than 3,500 community shelters and rehabilitation centers, and more than 100 million pieces of clothing. Bombas’ clothes not only warm the homeless, but also warm the hearts of consumers.
(Source: Bombas official website)
Whether it’s donating 1% of annual sales to environmental nonprofits like soda brand Aura Bora, or using a portion of profits to plant trees, like clothing brand Tentree. Keeping the brand in step with a more ambitious career will make customers feel satisfied about how they consume.

Tip2 Offset your carbon emissions with credits

Another smaller approach you can make is by partnering with an agency like Pachama or Neutrl to offset your customers’ carbon emissions.
You can build credits into product pricing or allow customers to join the program during the checkout process (usually adding an extra $1-2 to the order).

Tip3 Reduce returns

When consumers purchase products online, there is often some uncertain reasons that lead to risk-reducing behavior (such as a woman who is not sure what size she needs and orders the same sweater in multiple sizes).
So the upshot is, more orders = more delivery/return trucks on the road = more gas emissions.
As a brand, what can we do to reduce the number of truck trips? Here are some ideas to boost consumer confidence:
·Add a more comprehensive fit guide, product videos, or photos of models wearing multiple sizes to your product detail pages
·Asking users about their height/size when leaving a review gives other consumers a reference
·Allow customers to keep or donate their returns
For consumers, returns are often the most sustainable aspect of the post-purchase experience, so DTC brands are most likely to achieve sustainablity by optimizing their returns processes.

Tip4 Update your product packaging and shipper boxes

One of the bigger changes DTC brands need to consider is using recycled, recyclable or biodegradable materials to mail and store your products. This not only saves packaging and transportation costs, but the secondary use of product packaging will greatly optimize consumers’ purchasing experience. Here are some brands worth learning from:
(Source: Vesta official website)
·Hello Bello’s diaper boxes can be upcycled into baby toys.
·All of Vesta’s bags are reusable, and the blanket packaging, for example, can be used as a daily bag.
·90% of Reformation’s garments are packaged and shipped on recycled paper printed with soy ink.
·Rare Beauty’s shipping boxes, welcome cards and tissues are all made from recycled fibers and use compostable packaging foam made from water-soluble corn.
Additionally, only 6% of DTC brands include sustainability information in shipping notices, and 22% show theirs on packaging. Shipping notifications and product packaging are both key moments in the post-purchase experience that convey your brand values to users, thereby reinforcing their loyalty. Brands must take advantage of these opportunities to build a loyal customer base.

Tip5 Offer a recycling program

For those DTC brands that already have the ability to open offline stores, cooperation with local institutions will further develop your brand’s sustainability.
·Some DTC businesses offer green recycling programs where customers can mail or drop off used items in exchange for store credit or a discount on their next purchase:
·Bombas will send users a recycling bag that can hold 10 pounds of clothing; it will earn a $10 credit when users mail used items.
·Through Parade’s Second Life program, users can mail in any underwear from any brand to earn Parade credits, which they will recycle.
·Rothy’s allows users to bring old shoes back to retail stores for a $30 credit.
For both buyers and sellers, such recycling programs benefit them all. Your customers can organize their storage space and you can save money on raw materials.

Tip6 Let consumers know what your brand is doing

If you do the above tips well, you will have enough materials for your DTC brand marketing. So the next step is to let consumers know what your business is doing and what the brand’s vision is.
Waterhaul is a dedicated, mission-driven eyewear retail brand and the core of its business model is to solve environmental issues. This DTC brand extracts waste plastic from the UK coastline and recycles it into a variety of eyewear products.
This company plays an active role in environmental education, running workshops for school-age children to help the next generation understand issues related to ocean plastic waste.
Waterhaul also gained huge traffic exposure by using a garbage collector made from recycled fishing gear, demonstrating a superb advertising and marketing strategy. The garbage collector was not a core product of the brand and strayed from their eyewear category, but the unrelated hit proved to be great for public relationship(PR).
It can be found that as millennials with consistent values have become the most influential consumer group, our DTC brands must implement sustainable plans, provide sustainable choices, and accurately convey this information to users. Start making small changes now and see how your website visitors and customers respond to your brand’s sustainability.


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