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5 practical ways e-commerce companies in Africa can decarbonize their operations

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5 practical ways e-commerce companies in Africa can decarbonize their operations

E-commerce in Africa is experiencing rapid growth, thanks to technological advancements and companies’ hunger to drive sales and meet customers’ needs.

 

According to Statista, the number of online shoppers in Africa in 2020 was 281 million, with an estimated increase of about 520 million by 2025.

 

While the growth of e-commerce has had (and still has) tremendous advantages for the African economy, it spells greater problems for the continent environment-wise as it consequently adds to the increasing global carbon emissions, and is having unprecedented impacts on the ecosystem with a confluence of factors including environmental degradation, pollution, and climate change.

 

Carbon emissions for most e-commerce companies lie majorly in Scope 3 (emissions that occur outside the organization) and this is because e-commerce companies rely on complex logistics and delivery networks, especially freight, delivery, and packaging.

 

As more and more people shop online, the demand for last-mile deliveries, which are the most energy-intensive stage, is expected to grow.

 

Already today, freight transport accounts for 8% of global carbon emissions (may double by 2050), with last-mile shipping making up a large proportion of this footprint and as companies compete on speedy deliveries, this will more than triple the footprint of online deliveries.

 

This means that if the carbon footprint of the sector is not reduced within the next couple of years, urban emissions will increase drastically.

 

Here are 5 steps you can take to decarbonize your goods and services if you run an e-commerce company:

 

Adopt eco-friendly shipping options

 

For you to reduce the impact of shipping you can use environmentally-friendly shipping options including bikes and electric vehicles, as well as programs such as paperless invoicing, and carbon-neutral shipping via carbon offsetting that carriers like DHL, FedEx, and UPS have put to drive climate action.

 

You can also set up convenient pick-up points near your customers or partners so that orders can be dropped off at one stop.

 

Prioritize energy efficiency ‍

 

You should keep an eye on the electricity usage in your office and warehouses as this can be a key reduction driver for your company.

 

Start by switching to a renewable energy provider then move up to making simple changes such as low-energy lighting, reducing the temperature in the office, and simply turning off any equipment that is not currently being used.

 

This will not only reduce emissions but also lower energy costs.

 

Embrace circular economy

 

Since the circular economy reduces waste, extends a product’s life cycle, and closes the loop of supply chains, it will help your company reduce carbon emissions.

 

You can encourage your customers to turn in their used products or resell and buy second-hand ones.

 

Reduce excess packaging

 

Don’t be that retailer that uses standard boxes to ship all items and fill the free space with additional packaging material.

 

You should ship your items in smaller boxes to avoid unnecessary packaging material and waste. This will also free up space on the transport, making your company more climate-friendly due to reduced carbon footprint.

 

Support carbon offset projects

 

Carbon offsetting is an effective way to compensate for emissions that your company cannot yet avoid.

 

There are high-impact climate projects like protecting rainforests or scaling renewable energy that you can financially support to help reduce emissions.‍ Ensure that the projects are certified by international standards.

 

Bottom line

 

For your e-commerce company to pursue a holistic climate strategy, you need to look at the entire product life cycle: design, packaging, logistics solutions, and end-of-life management.

 

This will help you gain carbon transparency and understand your carbon footprint, two factors that are crucial to making your operations more sustainable.

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