This article is sponsored by Amazon.
Making every product on the planet more sustainable is no easy task, and it can’t be achieved by any one company, big or small. But we have to start somewhere. Amazon has declared that it is up for the challenge, using its size and scale to create more sustainable products and experiences for customers. This focus on improving the sustainability selection of products supports The Climate Pledge, co-founded by Amazon, which is an ambitious goal of reaching net-zero carbon by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement.
The company is encouraging others to join a global rally of action. More than 200 organizations have joined and are pursuing ambitious carbon-reduction activities, including operational and supply chain changes in the race to fight climate change. It’s inspiring to see the power in numbers from these organizations that generate a total of over $1.8 trillion in global annual revenues and are expected to mitigate 1.98 billion metric tons of carbon emissions annually by 2040 from a 2020 baseline.
But reducing carbon emissions is just one part of the intricate puzzle on the path to becoming a more sustainable businesses for the benefit of your customers and the planet.
An IBM and NRF survey from last year found that nearly 80 percent of consumers from 29 countries report that sustainability is important to them. Nearly 60 percent are willing to change their shopping habits to be more sustainable. More than 70 percent of consumers who report that sustainability is very or extremely important claim that they are willing to pay a 35 percent premium for more sustainable and environmentally responsible products.
These data points prove that businesses must begin adapting to making their businesses, products and services more sustainable. While some of this might sound intuitive, you must start somewhere, and these are some helpful ways to think about sustainability.
Connect sustainability to innovation in your business
A core part of Amazon’s business is its wide selection of products and services and its culture of innovation. Connecting these both to sustainability is key to Amazon reducing its own carbon footprint and helping customers reduce theirs. Amazon teams around the world are empowered to invent on behalf of customers. It uses a concept of two-pizza teams — keeping teams small and nimble enough that you could feed them with two pizzas. This keeps innovation alive in a rapidly growing company. By empowering teams across Amazon to encourage the development of more sustainable products and services, product sustainability is the subject of constant innovation for teams across Amazon. It’s one reason why my team and I were inspired to launch Climate Pledge Friendly, a program that makes it easier to discover and shop for more sustainable products on Amazon.com.
Collaborate with experts
If you’re a business, it’s important to find ways to connect and collaborate with the experts who have been doing this for years. Those who understand the market can help how you think about sustainability — whether it’s focused on sourcing, packaging or delivery. The Climate Pledge Friendly program partners with 36 certifiers including governmental agencies, nonprofits and independent laboratories, to help distinguish and visibly showcase more sustainable products on pages across Amazon. These certifications include the Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade International and USDA Organic. As a result of partnering with these organizations, the program has 200,000 products and more than 10,000 brands certified through the program across beauty, wellness, apparel, electronics, household and grocery.
These are some of the latest certifications that have joined and ones you could explore partnering or connecting with if you operate in the U.S. or Europe:
- EU Organic products have zero or minimal chemical pesticides or fertilizers, support animal welfare and non-genetically modified standards, and must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients.
- Soil Association Certification supports a more sustainable way of farming and producing food through meeting the Soil Association Organic Standards, which works with nature to support wildlife, protect the soil, care for animals and help farms combat climate change.
- NATRUE is an international nonprofit committed to setting and building strict requirements for natural and organic cosmetic products, packaging and products’ formulations that could not be found in other labels.
- Fair for Life certifies Fair Trade products across the entire supply chain, ensuring that human rights are safeguarded, workers enjoy good and fair working conditions and farmers receive a fair share.
- USDA Organic products are grown and processed according to standards addressing soil and water quality, among other factors.
- Associazione Italiana Agricultura Biologica (AIAB) certifies food, cosmetic and detergent products made without the use of chemical pesticides, following the high-level principles of biodiversity, natural resource preservation and animals’ welfare standards.
Invent and introduce new processes and programs
Amazon has long been dedicated to helping customers with product transparency, starting with the launch of customer reviews in the 1990s, which allowed customers to hold manufacturers accountable for better products by sharing that information with other customers.
The company is finding ways to give customers more product sustainability information. From its years of expertise in logistics, the Amazon team was able to develop a new certification, Compact by Design, that identifies and showcases products that use less air and water, require less packaging and ultimately become more efficient to ship. The team has set thresholds in each product type to push product manufacturers to reduce the amount of packaging used. These tweaks can have dramatic carbon savings. Businesses can always be thinking about mechanisms to minimize waste, increase recycling, and provide options for customers to seek out ways to reuse, repair or recycle their products — ultimately sending no material to landfill and everything back into a circular economy.
What I’m seeing in my role on the sustainable shopping team is that by giving customers more information and more ways to participate, customers are increasingly choosing the more sustainable option. Customers can’t shop their way to a sustainable planet, but it’s a piece of the solution that ties to larger commitments such as The Climate Pledge and more governmental action and collaboration.
How one brand is growing its business and acting more sustainably
Founded by Jessica Alba, the Honest Company helps people make clean and conscious choices when it comes to buying beauty, baby and household cleaning products, and many of their products are part of the Climate Pledge Friendly program. The Honest Company has certified over a dozen products through EWG, including its best-selling Extreme Length Mascara and Vitamin C Serum.
“Honest was built around a deep sense of purpose, and we continue to incorporate our ethical values of transparency, trust and sustainability into everything we do,” Alba said. “From day one, it has been our goal to not only improve the lives of people, but also have a positive impact in all that we do, including the way we treat the planet. Today, we continue to innovate and expand our product portfolio and are passionately working to incorporate sustainability throughout our products, packaging and delivery systems.
“As our company continues to focus our efforts within this important area, we applaud Amazon for stepping up to address sustainability — a timely issue that impacts us all — through the Climate Pledge Friendly initiative.”
This is just one example that shows how brands are succeeding in being more sustainable through their own channels and partner channels.
As businesses and brands continue to realize that sustainable operations are mutually beneficial for both business and the planet, I’m excited by all the possibilities we have to help transform the online shopping experience. While we’ve collectively made so much progress, this is just the beginning for more sustainable shopping online.