James Mellan-Matulewicz, design expert and creative director of the sustainable wallpaper brand, bobbi beckoutlines how retailers can manage their sustainability efforts and still offer customers the deals they expect
The accelerated rise of Black Friday has meant that it is increasingly difficult for retailers and e-commerce businesses to opt out. However, the added digital footprint, carbon emissions and packaging waste can affect companies’ sustainability credentials.
Black Friday snowballs more and more every year, with companies worried that if they don’t get involved, they will lose vital sales. However, the effects of this consumer-focused event may be at odds with sustainability goals. It’s a fine line, but there are ways to handle it.
- Use recyclable packaging
The first port of call and perhaps one of the easiest ways to balance additional order volumes is to only use 100% recycled and recyclable packaging. This is one of the biggest areas of waste during Black Friday, so investing in better quality packaging will help offset it. Avoid plastics as much as possible and look for paper filler or biodegradable alternatives.
- Avoid next day delivery
This may be controversial in a climate where overnight delivery is now almost expected, but the pressure on shippers to ship items across the country within 24 hours is the source of avoidable carbon emissions. Offering a more standard service means you can bundle many more packages and send them all at once to one area instead of sending few and often. Run deals worth waiting for so your customers won’t mind another day or two.
Showcasing your sustainability credentials early on in the user journey can help customers convert. Conscientious shoppers will prefer to shop at stores that are actively offsetting their carbon output. Planting trees, investing in solar energy, or using only ethically sourced materials are all ways to do good.
For ecommerce stores using Shopify, you can integrate a green cart plugin that shows customers how much carbon their purchase produces and how they can offset it by buying from you and not someone else. It works by companies contributing to a green initiative every time they make a sale so that all orders are carbon neutral. That way, you will positively impact sustainability and increase conversions.”
If your product allows it, you might consider a ‘retrade’, or buy-back scheme, to balance new purchases with old ones. Customers can return old items for a coupon or discount, and you as a retailer can ensure they’re disposed of properly, reused, or resold elsewhere. High sales volumes during the Black Friday trading period mean many vintage items will go unused. Offering to buy them back gives your customer an incentive to shop with you and ensures things don’t get dumped in tips or end up in a landfill.
There are plenty of wonderful environmental charities that would benefit from the Black Friday spending boost. Look for ones that closely align with your values, or that work in your local community, and partner with them to offer a percentage of Black Friday profits. You could go a step further and incorporate this throughout the year. Some of the biggest brands in the world have even donated 100% of their profits to charity on Black Friday. While that may not be possible for many companies, it shows that there is a focus on sustainability from all angles and that getting involved is a great way to show that you care about the planet as much as you care about profit.
As a business, it can be easy to go into Black Friday only by really thinking about the competition and how not to miss out. However, standing out as a retailer that thinks both sustainability and sales can be a big draw for many shoppers. Don’t do it simply as a marketing ploy, as consumers can see right through that, but take some time in the lead up to see what good it can really do.
James Mellan-Matulewicz is CEO of luxury and sustainable wallpaper brand Bobbi bobbi beck