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Earth Day 2024: Consumer Trends in Sustainable Shipping

Blog Post
In honor of Earth Day, we’re sharing some of our recent consumer research on eco-friendly practices and strategies that retailers can leverage to improve sustainable shipping.
mother and child holding seedling planted in dirt

As more and more consumers become focused on sustainability, businesses have responded with widespread efforts to streamline packaging, reduce waste, and find more eco-conscious shipping methods— but many retailers know they’ll need more than climate pledges to retain customer loyalty and grow sales. In honor of Earth Day, we’re diving into some of our recent consumer research around the eco-friendly practices that matter most to consumers, and strategies that retailers can leverage to continue to delight consumers amidst growing pressure to improve sustainable shipping. 

A Delicate Balance: Time VS Money 

It’s no secret that sustainable shipping practices often present additional challenges for retailers. Whether you’re combining multiple orders into a single box to streamline last-mile delivery or mapping out more efficient routes for your drivers to reduce emissions, every adjustment to your fulfillment processes requires a significant investment of time and money.  

As retailers have tried to navigate the trade-offs and maintain profits, they’ve been forced to assess how these challenges will, in turn, affect consumers. For example, are consumers willing to wait a bit longer for their packages?  

Flexible Shipping Timelines  

According to our research, 77% of consumers said they would be willing to wait longer for packages shipped via sustainable shipping methods. Of those, 29% of consumers said they’d be willing to wait 1 day longer for their packages and 38% said they’d be willing to wait 3 to 5 days longer for their packages. This gives retailers significant wiggle room in delivery timing as they work to streamline last-mile delivery.  

When shipping timelines are extended, however, it’s important to set clear expectations and proactively communicate updates with shoppers. Establishing clear communication channels and sharing regular order updates helps to maintain positive, trusting relationships with shoppers. According to Radial research, 33% of retail executives report that they’re working to provide real-time visibility on order delivery. These developments will be critical as delivery timelines flex to meet sustainability benchmarks.  

Many brands are also leveraging partnerships with fulfillment providers, like Radial, who can help to automate order updates. 

Updated Pricing Models  

While ground shipping and reduced packaging help retailers reduce costs in the long run, the transition to more sustainable methods and materials often requires retailers to make an initial investment. For many brands, the upfront costs associated with these changes can be a huge barrier in the transition to more sustainable options. 

Partnering with a large 3PL like Radial can streamline last mile delivery and help reduce costs and eliminate the barrier for a retailer to make the investment themselves.  

A Growing Focus on Packaging 

Another avenue many retailers are exploring is sustainable packaging, and for good reason. Consumers have strong opinions about packaging. Most consumers believe that online retailers should look to packaging to improve their sustainable shipping practices. In our survey, we specifically found that: 

  • 30% think online retailers should use packaging made from recycled materials 
  • 29% think online retailers should use reusable packaging that can be repurposed or refilled 
  • 23% think online retailers should implement more efficient packaging designs to minimize waste 

Despite this growing attention from consumers, many brands are struggling to make the switch to sustainable packaging, with rising costs posing a huge barrier for many companies. 

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle 

Data from our survey indicates that these extra investments are worth the price tag. 60% of consumers believe sustainable packaging has an impact on sustainable shipping, and about one third of consumers (33%) prioritize products or brands using eco-friendly, recyclable, or biodegradable packaging when making a purchase decision. Delighting these customers will be key to continued success in a competitive retail market.  

Radial can support your transition to more sustainable packaging. From right-sizing the packaging you currently use, to transitioning to fully recycled materials, we can provide sustainable packaging options and the necessary customizations to reduce your environmental impact.  

Streamline Your Sustainable Shipping With Radial  

Sustainable packaging offers a compelling solution for both retailers and consumers— but it’s a small part of the larger puzzle we’re collectively working to solve.  

At Radial, we’re deeply committed to sustainability and environmental protection. Our Package Engineering department works with our clients to collaborate on designing, developing, testing, certifying, manufacturing, and optimizing sustainable packaging that’s customized for each product and brand to reduce waste. We also offset carbon footprints by strategically locating fulfillment centers to reduce the distance orders need to travel and, in turn, reduce their shipping impacts on the environment.  

As the industry’s largest 3PL provider, Radial supports hundreds of brands and retailers as they work to streamline operations, reduce packaging, and ship more sustainably. From fulfillment and transportation management, to kitting and supply chain management, Radial plays a key role in helping our clients reduce emissions, right-size packaging, and meet their sustainability targets.  

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Radial can help with sustainability.