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How to carbon offset the impact of your e-commerce business

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Reducing the impact your e-commerce business has on the planet and becoming carbon neutral is, without doubt, an essential move.

Get it right and carbon offsetting may increase customer loyalty, improve brand perception, and boost your sales.

The wellbeing of the environment is becoming increasingly important to online customers.

According to research into e-commerce shopping behaviour, more than half of UK shoppers (57%) say online shopping poses risks for the environment, with 40% willing to pay extra for carbon-neutral shipping.

You have several options to consider that will help to reduce the environmental impact associated with your e-commerce business.

Bundling purchases and pricing deliveries appropriately to incentivise slower shipping, for example, are simple steps in the right direction.

Carbon offsetting needn’t be a time-consuming, confusing, or an overwhelming option. In this article, we look at some carbon offsetting options to help improve the sustainability of your e-commerce business.

Here’s what we cover:

What is carbon offsetting?

What are the carbon offset options?

How to choose the best carbon offset option

Final thoughts on carbon offsetting and sustainability

Quite simply, carbon offsetting is a way to compensate for carbon dioxide emissions your e-commerce business can’t avoid producing.

The idea is that by participating in carbon offsetting projects that organise activities such as planting trees, forest conservation, soil management, or investment in renewable technologies, you can replace the equivalent amount of carbon from the atmosphere that activities, such as shipping, for example, have produced.

However, uncertainties and cynicism surrounds carbon offsetting as an imperfect solution that doesn’t actually solve the root issue.

It’s important to remember that carbon offsets aren’t a free pass for inaction and a way to buy a clean conscience. It’s critical that you find a reputable carbon offset provider that guarantees their projects lead to legitimate carbon savings.

Start with Shopify. Add its Offset app to your store and enable Shop Pay, and you can offer 100% carbon neutral shipping to your buyers.

The Offset app does the hard work for you by calculating the delivery emissions of each individual orders using distance travelled, mode of transportation, and the weight of the package.

The average cost per shipment is a few pennies and is charged through your monthly Shopify invoice with the full amount going directly to deforestation protection projects.

If Shopify isn’t your preferred platform, there are plenty of other programmes to choose from that will help counterbalance some of your carbon emissions.

Here are others to consider, depending on your preference:

  • Etsy runs a carbon offsetting programme that neutralises its delivery and transport emissions in partnership with 3Degrees. The projects invested in include wind and solar farms and planting and preserving trees.
  • ClimatePartner provides carbon offsets to e-commerce companies, including reforestation projects and hydropower investments. It gives you a trackable ID number that can be shown on packaging and marketing material, which lets your customers track the offsets associated with their purchase.
  • Carbonfund offers a Carbonfree Shipping Program for e-commerce businesses. Its projects are focused on reforestation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy projects.
  • Carboncheckout is also designed specifically for e-commerce businesses. By using its app, you can give an optional carbon offset during the checkout process and a verification code is assigned to each purchase so your customers can see exactly where their money is being spent.

Check that any provider you want to use is verified by a trusted and reliable third party.

This will give you confidence that your donations support projects that make a real and significant difference and protect your own businesses from the risky territory of greenwashing.

Checking that any offsets you use are audited by The Voluntary Gold Standard (VGS) will go a long way to reassuring you as it is the global benchmark and is endorsed by more than 80 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) across the world including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

It insists that projects it supports must meet its rigorous standards, and this includes meeting a minimum of three of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Using offsets certified by the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) will also ensure that your investments have a genuine impact.

It’s the world’s most widely used voluntary emissions reduction standard and trusted by NGOs, the private sector, and governments alike.

Remember, carbon offsetting is not a replacement for taking actions to reduce your climate impact. Offsetting doesn’t solve the problem but, as the name suggests, offsets your unavoidable emissions.

Shopify notes that: “Carbon offsetting is not a perfect solution, but a necessary tool.”

Of course, this is one step in the right direction but, ultimately, you need to remove carbon emissions from your own operations as far as possible.

Really simple actions such as turning off appliances like PCs, printers, monitors, laptops and chargers, and using eco-friendly software as much as possible are also important considerations and should be taken in tandem with any carbon offsetting measures.

The future of e-commerce business needs to be green and sustainable, and there’s no time to lose.

It’s vital to take action today, and these smart tips will get you on the road to making significant reductions on the environmental impact of your e-commerce business.

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