Getting products from one place to another can be an arduous process that uses multiple modes of transportation. This presents challenges, not only when it comes to daily business operations but also when trying to instill socially responsible practices into your policies and procedures.

With a heightened focus on environmental issues, many companies are looking at ways to reduce their carbon footprint during the shipping process. Here are a few considerations for making your business’s shipping policies greener.

Reduce Packaging

When designing packaging for your product, keep it simple. Rather than opting for a large box to display the contents, keep it small and use the space effectively. Not only will you save money in production, but also during the shipping process. If you can fit 500 pieces in one shipment rather than 100 pieces in bulkier packaging, why wouldn’t you?

You can also be more environmentally conscious by choosing methods that use less disposable packaging during shipping. For example, a shipping container is made of durable metal, making it reusable for years to come. Cardboard boxes on a truck will inevitably end up in a landfill. Investing in shipping containers is a greener option to consider reducing land waste.

Use Recycled Goods

If you must use extra packaging and padding for your products, seek out recycled materials. Businesses will often forego recycled cardboard packaging because it doesn’t have the crisp, bleached white look they desire. Using recycled cardboard not only reduces a company’s carbon footprint but costs less. Look for cardboard suppliers who use sustainable forestry practices and are certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council.

Rather than looking for new pallets on which to ship your products, work with suppliers who offer refurbished or recycled pallets. Take this a step further by ensuring the pallets in your warehouse which are no longer of use get sent to one of those businesses for processing.

Evaluate Your Filling Materials

Historically, shipping companies have used styrofoam to keep their products safe during transport. Styrofoam is cheap and effective, but also terrible for the environment as it never biodegrades and is petroleum-based. All in all, styrofoam production uses highly unsustainable production practices.

Lots of companies now use starch-based packing peanuts that are made sustainably and biodegrade without harming the environment. The cost difference is minimal and is worth the bragging rights of using eco-friendly shipping methods.

Consolidate Shipments

Work with a freight forwarder to consolidate your shipments. In this process, the freight forwarder will arrange for your shipment to be combined with other small shipments to fill a container. This not only saves costs for all businesses involved but also reduces the need for several different modes of transportation for all.

At the point of destination, the freight forwarder arranges for delivery and separates the orders as needed. However, if your products are going to nearby locations, they may end up on the same truck, further reducing the environmental impacts.

Make up the Difference

Sometimes it is impossible for your business to take an environmentally friendly approach to shipping. If you have specialty goods that can’t be consolidated or require unique packaging, your green options may be limited. If that is the case, evaluate other aspects of your business in which you can make changes or give back to the community in another way.

For example, create a policy in which a small percentage of your sales are donated to sustainable energy efforts. Promote company events like monthly litter cleanup sessions and tree planting. Make every effort to go paperless with invoicing and unnecessary printing in the office. Make the production process as green as possible.

Many customers choose businesses with environmentally conscientious practices over their competition. If nothing else, take advantage of the business opportunity these practices present.

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Hellen McAdams
Hellen McAdams is the chief strategist at Marketee.rs. She loves a good digital marketing and business development strategy, and isn’t afraid to ask questions every day to keep up with the industry’s trends. If you have any comments or questions, shoot her a question at @hellen_mcadams.

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