Sustainability for Webshops in 4 Simple Steps

by Jasmijn Missler

Our parcel shame (shame of the environmental impact your package delivery has) is growing. Ten years ago only a third of the Dutch population was concerned about the environment while shopping (online), in 2021 this is already about 60 percent[1]. This is not surprising, because we have impact: in the same decade, the number of online stores has almost quadrupled[2].

Webshops also feel their responsibility. The most obvious sustainability measures are packaging - preferably recyclable and customized - and greener logistics. But don't forget that there is another important step before this: purchasing.

Don't forget the procurement

After all, where do your items come from and how are they actually made? Obviously, items produced in Europe are less harmful than those that have to be flown in from Asia. But also consider biodegradable materials and good working conditions.

Customers want to know this: over half of the Dutch population finds that sustainability information in web shops is insufficient[3]. And if you leave it out, customers are still conscious of environmental damage, according to the same research. A product filter 'sustainability' and extra information on the product page are therefore no luxury. But then you have to have that information.

Ideally, your supplier can provide this, but there are also labels to separate the wheat from the chaff. Like the Global Organic Textile Standard for organic textiles and the European Ecolabel for plastic-free cosmetics. More labels to expand your sustainable assortment can be found via the 'Keurmerkenwijzer' from 'Milieucentraal'.


Customers miss sustainability information when it comes to products, but also in the checkout. By just showing the CO2 emissions next to delivery options, twice as many customers choose a greener option, shows research from 'Thuiswinkel'. The environmentally friendly delivery automatically checked, makes one third of your customers choose this. If their package is delivered sustainably, nine out of ten Dutch people find waiting longer no problem[4].

But what is green delivery? In the first place, electric vans and bicycle couriers are better than a bus with fuel. Also, a pickup point is often more sustainable than home delivery. This has the additional advantage that the delivery driver has to make fewer stops and does not have to stand in front of a closed door. The latter saves on extra trips for hundreds of thousands of packages each year[5].

Customization and online returns

Back to packaging. In 2020, it will account for almost half of ecommerce emissions, not least because half of an average package consists of air[6]. So in addition to switching to recyclable cardboard or reusable shipping bags, there's a lot of profit to be made with different formats. For those who outsource fulfillment, a wrapping machine can offer a solution here.

After packaging, returns are the biggest polluters in the web shopping world. Not surprising, given the needless trips to and from the distribution center. Detailed product information and paid returns are obvious, but have you thought about digitizing your returns? Customers can register their shipment online instead of with stacks of return receipts. That way, you know right away that a return is on its way, what's in it and why.


[1] b-open en MarketResponse, Monitor Merk & Maatschappij, 2021.

[2] Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, Bedrijven; Bedrijfstak, StatLine.

[3], ‘60% Nederlanders wil meer inzicht in duurzaamheid bestelling’, 1 december 2021.

[4], ‘1 op 5 consumenten wil betalen voor duurzaamheid’, 17 september 2019.

[5] UC Group, ‘Pakketten op wielen, de laatste meters wegen het zwaarst’, 2016.

[6] MIT Real Estate Innovation Lab, ‘Retail Carbon Footprints: Measuring Impacts from Real Estate and Technology’, 12 januari 2021.

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