Reducing Your E-commerce Carbon Footprint: Strategies for Sustainability

With an estimated 62 million UK e-commerce users in 2025 alone, and an estimated revenue of £126 billion by the end of 2024, the pressing need for e-commerce companies to reduce their carbon footprint is becoming increasingly apparent.  

The undeniable convenience of product delivery carries an ecological consequence as carbon emissions from e-commerce logistics are expected to reach approximately 25 million CO2 metric tons by 2030. As climate change increasingly becomes a pressing global concern, it is expected that e-commerce retailers will prioritise making more environmentally friendly decisions. 

In this blog I will explore actionable strategies that can make a real difference. So, how can e-commerce companies, take meaningful steps to shrink our carbon footprint? Let’s find out.  

What does carbon footprint mean?

To begin making more environmentally friendly decisions we first need to understand, what is a carbon footprint? A carbon footprint represents the total amount of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, released directly or indirectly through various activities. In the context of e-commerce, it reflects the environmental impact linked with online shopping, including energy use during production, shipping, and disposal of products.  

What causes carbon emissions in the e-commerce industry?

From production to delivery, each step of the process has its impact on the environment. Understanding these factors is essential for finding ways to reduce carbon emissions. Let’s take a closer look at what drives carbon emissions in the e-commerce sector and how we can address them. 

Impulse Buying

Substantial discounts, different payment options, and reward points are among the factors that incentivise consumers to make more impulsive purchases. 

Packaging 

E-commerce companies prioritise the packaging of shipped goods to customers, often including an additional layer of corrugated boxes and plastic wrap to safeguard the product during transit. It is estimated that UK households throw away 100 billion pieces of plastic packaging a year.  

Repeated Customer Returns

When returns are effortless and cost-free, consumers purchase multiple items with the intention of returning several. This escalates carbon emissions due to the extra transportation required for returning products.  

Huge data centres

E-commerce has also led to a rise in the volume of data that must be processed and stored. This means more data centres are needed, which consume significant amounts of energy. 

logitstics

How can e-commerce companies reduce their carbon footprint?

From streamlining logistics to carbon offsetting, there are several approaches e-commerce businesses can explore. 

Track your carbon emissions

Your carbon footprint represents the volume of greenhouse gas emissions produced by your e-commerce business. It is one of the most critical sustainability metrics, showcasing your impact on climate change. The carbon emissions are broken down into 3 scopes:   

  • Scope 1 is your business’s direct emissions.  
  • Scope 2 is the indirect emissions. 
  • Scope 3 is the emissions generated by other companies within your supply chain.  

Use the formula below to calculate your carbon footprint:   

Total CO2 emissions = (energy consumption x emission factor) + (transportation emissions) + (packaging emissions).  

Or use this handy tool:  

https://smeclimatehub.org/start-measuring/  

By keeping up to date on your carbon footprint, you can easily track and identify any areas for improvement. 

Green hosting

Hosting websites requires a lot of energy, and green web hosting is an environmentally friendly way to house your website. Green hosting uses servers powered by renewable energy and energy-efficient technology to provide a sustainable way of hosting.  

Carbon Offsetting

electric vehicle

Carbon offsetting contributes towards climate-related projects, whether participating in or financially funding, to compensate for your business emissions. Delivery and packaging are the primary contributors to emissions in the e-commerce sector. In this scenario, choosing climate projects certified by international standards is essential: 

Improved transportation efficiency

Supporting initiatives that promote cleaner transportation options, such as using eco-friendly vehicles, optimising delivery routes, or implementing shared delivery services, can help reduce carbon emissions from transportation.   

Waste management and recycling

Investing in efficient waste management and recycling practices, including waste sorting and recycling facilities.  

Renewable energy for logistics  

packaging

Supporting renewable energy projects specifically tailored for logistics operations, such as solar-powered warehouses or electric delivery fleets.  

Use sustainable packaging

There are many different environmentally friendly packaging materials to suit a wide range of products. Recyclable or compostable packing would be a great place to start. Compostable packaging is usually made from plant-based materials. An alternative to Styrofoam is mushroom packaging which is made from mycelium.  

If plastic packaging is needed, then a great alternative would be glassine or cellulose packaging. Both are produced from natural sources like wood and are biodegradable. Ensure products are shipped in correctly sized boxes to avoid unnecessary waste.  

Aim to reduce customer returns   

More and more e-commerce businesses are putting a stop to free returns. If you no longer provide free returns, this may discourage customers from ordering items they plan to send back, ultimately reducing overall returns and your carbon footprint.  

If this isn’t an option, try providing high quality product images, thorough product descriptions, size guides or even using augmented reality to help customers see how a product would look or fit them or their environment. This would allow customers to find the most suitable item and decrease the likelihood of returning your product. 

Conclusion

Becoming environmentally friendly takes time. At Autify we understand how important becoming more sustainable is for your company and for your future customers. By aligning our digital services with your sustainability goals, we strive to present your business in the most favourable manner online, attracting new environmentally conscious consumers and creating long-term customer loyalty. Let’s pave the way for a more sustainable future while maximising your online presence by getting in touch today.   

Tia Cole
Tia Cole
Digital Marketing Executive

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