ILG warehouse employee in a high vis jacket packing a box of beauty products

How to Make Your E-Commerce Packaging More Sustainable


Choosing the right delivery packaging for your beauty and wellbeing products is vital during the fulfilment process and beyond.

Balancing a perfect unboxing experience and the sustainability of your outer packaging materials can transform the experience for your customers. This often comes down to how integrated your fulfilment partner is with your own brand mission and process.

As e-commerce packaging becomes more innovative, consumers increasingly expect it to be as sustainably sourced as possible, particularly when the products themselves claim to be environmentally minded. A recent study showed that around 60% of global customers consider sustainability an important aspect of their e-commerce orders, so finding ways to perfect your product packaging is a must.

For e-commerce businesses, it’s a question of how. Making sure that packaging is recycled/recyclable is one thing, but it should not come at the cost of attractive presentation and a memorable unboxing experience. As we’ll explore in this blog, it doesn’t need to.

We’ll take a look at some of the facts behind sustainable packaging in the e-commerce industry; as well as some of the different types of sustainable packaging you can use to ensure it remains eco-friendly and well-protected during transit. If you’re looking for a reliable fulfilment partner with the same passion for sustainability as you, please get in touch.

Sustainable E-Commerce Packaging: The Key Points

When it comes to e-commerce packaging, ‘sustainability’ is often considered synonymous with ‘plastic-free’. Eco-friendly packaging is not only vital for the planet and your carbon footprint; it’s also so important to consumers that it’s effectively an extension of your brand.

In terms of order fulfilment, packaging here refers to the outer packaging used for delivery to your individual customers. For beauty and wellbeing products in particular, this presents a key opportunity to enhance the presentation of customers’ orders, beyond the product itself. The experience doesn’t begin after the delivery packaging is opened; the delivery packaging itself plays an important role in consumer perception.

Great outer packaging for beauty and wellbeing products achieves four things:

  • Ensuring goods are well-protected during transit 
  • Beautiful presentation as an extension of any product-specific packaging
  • Contains no wasteful, non-recyclable or unrecycled packaging
  • Saves your business money in the long run

Ultimately, end customers need to have a great experience at every touchpoint in order for that experience to be most effective. This is where specialist order fulfilment can help your delivery experience shine.

What Makes Delivery Packaging ‘Sustainable’?

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition has the following criteria for packaging to be considered sustainable:

  • Beneficial, safe and healthy to use throughout its life cycle
  • Meeting market criteria for both performance and cost
  • Sourced, manufactured, transported and recycled using renewable energy
  • Incorporating the use of renewable or recycled source materials
  • Manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices 
  • Made from materials that are healthy in all possible end-of-life scenarios
  • Can be effectively recovered and utilised in biological and/or industrial closed-loop cycles
  • Physically designed to optimise materials and energy

There’s a fantastic opportunity here for beauty and wellbeing brands. Products within these industries that are sustainably produced are perceived to have an inherent air of quality, thoughtfulness and consumer satisfaction. This perception can be enhanced if the outer packaging adopts the same philosophy.

Our Top Tips for More Sustainable Packaging

Next, we’ll offer some practical tips to help you make your brand’s e-commerce packaging more environmentally friendly.

Keep it Recycled, Recyclable and Sustainably Sourced

The more integrated your packaging materials are within the recycling process, the better. When packaging orders for fulfilment, using materials that can be or have been recycled is a key step in the sustainability process.

It’s worth bearing in mind that not all ‘recyclable’ materials are easily recyclable by the average consumer, so opting for materials that can be recycled at home is a clear winner. In addition, try to avoid hybridised materials, which is to say, any single packaging material made from multiple different materials (e.g. cardboard and plastic).

Sustainably sourced packaging made from bamboo or previously recycled materials are becoming more widely available; many leading fulfilment providers offer it as standard, so making the switch from other packaging is easier than it ever has been.

What about void fill?

These principles apply to void fill as well. We’re all familiar with the material effectiveness of bubble wrap, but as more and more fulfilment companies look to phase it out, some interesting alternatives are becoming available. They’re also becoming increasingly innovative and just as effective, meaning it’s more viable to avoid settling for the simple bubble wrap option.

Some of our favourite recyclable void fill materials:

  1. Paper shred and paper wrap. With adequately packaged paper shred or bundled paper wrap, a bubble wrap effect can be achieved with pockets of air being interspersed amongst the sturdier paper. This is especially handy for breakable orders, such as glass beauty products.
  2. Paper bubble wrap. This has begun to make an appearance and is essentially identical in function to plastic bubble wrap, only with recyclable paper as the chief material.
  3. Hivewrap. Another excellent sustainable void fill material, hivewrap is essentially thin strips of sturdy paper that have been interlaced to create a sturdy but flexible void fill. When spread out it resembles a beehive, hence the name.

Use Suitably-Sized, Minimal Packaging

As e-commerce customers ourselves, we’ve unfortunately all received an order in a box around 3 sizes too big. It leaves a really bad impression; not only is it wasteful, but it also gives the end user the feeling that the order wasn’t thoughtfully prepared or protected.

Taking extra care in optimising your order packaging can make a world of difference for your customers, for the planet and for your bottom line. Less packaging means less space used during transit, which means fewer delivery vans. This has the knock-on effect of reducing carbon emissions – a major win for any sustainably-minded business. The packaged items will also be more secure, reducing the risk of breakages – a critical consideration when fulfilling beauty orders, and one that can help you reduce returns as well.

Package Multi-Item Orders Together

According to Modern Retail, at least 50% of e-commerce customers think it’s important to package multiple items together. Wherever possible, reduce the number of dispatched orders to sole recipients. 

As fulfilment experts ourselves, we understand that this can at times be easier said than done. The best way to do it effectively is to keep customers informed about the status of their orders; if part of the order is likely to be delayed, it can be a good idea to give them the option of delaying the whole order so that goods are shipped together.

Inform Customers About Package Recycling

Packaging an order that’s sustainable on paper is one thing, but if your end user isn’t aware of how to recycle it, it can all be for nothing. With sustainable packaging an ever-evolving concept, it’s vital that we keep the end customer informed on how they can contribute to the chain. 

Consider including information on how to recycle the delivery packaging in the customer’s dispatch email, or by printing instructions on the packaging itself. Avoid excess materials like information slips; if space is at a premium, consider printing a QR code on the packaging that links to online recycling instructions.

This is also a valuable opportunity to inform customers about how the eco-friendly packing of their orders has impacted their carbon footprint. Showcasing some stats on reduced carbon emissions/saved materials can help get them invested in the process as well.

Sustainable Packaging Starts with Sustainable Fulfilment

For e-commerce businesses, having a sustainable ethos is only the beginning. Ensuring it’s captured through sustainable order fulfilment is where efforts towards sustainability are truly brought to life. Thus, working with a fulfilment partner as passionate about sustainability as you are is a vital piece of the puzzle, as this can help you balance your outer packaging’s aesthetic appeal with its eco-friendly nature. This passion for sustainability is clear within ILG, with our commitment to become a net zero business by 2030.

At ILG, sustainability is a major part of who we are. We work in partnership with our customers to develop bespoke, sustainable packaging that aligns with their brand and acts as an extension of their end customer experience. If you’re looking for a reliable fulfilment partner that gels with your own environmental ethos, we’d love to hear from you – get in touch with us today.

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