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How e-commerce platforms are making it easier for brands to be more sustainable

BySCMP Events

[The content of this article has been produced by our advertising partner.]

Consumers are embracing greener shopping options and are demanding brands to build a more sustainable future. New research by Bain & Company found that 90% of consumers in Asia-Pacific are willing to spend a premium on sustainable products - showing brands that sustainability is important. Also, consumers are increasingly moving online, choosing to purchase their goods and services through e-commerce platforms rather than physical stores. To keep up with this shift in consumer demand, online platforms are now helping businesses on the sustainability journey.

Here are three ways e-commerce platforms are making it easier for brands to be more sustainable:

Repurposing pre-owned products

E-commerce companies provide a platform for brands to sell second-hand merchandise in a more streamlined way than through bricks and mortar. Online platforms allow shoppers to more easily and quickly buy second-hand goods, giving them a new life and helping the environment.

An example of this can be seen through integrated marketplace, Idle Fish, which is an e-commerce marketplace specifically for second-hand goods launched by Alibaba in 2014. They offer many tools and resources to help users sell pre-owned products on its platform. These include in-app price estimation as well as free door-to-door pickup, valuation and consignment services for dozens of product categories, including 3C electronics, clothing and collectible figures. Furthermore, the platform offers free door-to-door packing and recycling for clothing items. Since 2017, the platform has received more than 50,000 metric tons of pre-owned clothes, 23.7 million used books, 3.66 million mobile phones and 1.45 million large home appliances.

Carbon emission labelling

In the e-commerce industry, carbon labels or emission labels are becoming increasingly popular. They provide details about the carbon dioxide emissions associated with the manufacturing, transportation, and disposal of consumer goods. Information such as this has become increasingly relevant to consumers wishing to minimise their ecological footprints and global warming contributions.

E-commerce platforms are moving to adopt carbon footprint labels to communicate products’ environmental impact to consumers. Alibaba Group's B2C e-commerce platform Tmall introduced eco-friendly product labels earlier this year to help consumers assess the environmental impact of their purchases. On the product display page, a label shows the carbon emissions buyers could save by using an energy-efficient device versus a regular appliance. By June 30, 2022, over 4,000 merchants had listed 430,000 certified home appliances on Taobao and Tmall. During the 6.18 Shopping Festival in 2022, the carbon emission reduction from energy efficient consumer products sold on Taobao and Tmall was estimated to be around 153,000 tons.

Creating environmentally friendly products

By creating a bridge between smaller brands and merchants, large e-commerce platforms are enabling the access for brands to create sustainable products, packaging, and materials. For example, Tmall Innovation Centre (TMIC), the dedicated retail innovation arm of Tmall, Alibaba Group's premier marketplace for brands works with brands to incubate products right through from precise market analysis, real-time consumer insights, and product concept testing. This includes leveraging relevant local information to collaborate on product design, manufacturing, testing, and fine-tuning, to ensure sustainability. Meanwhile, earlier this year Alibaba Group and 19 leading consumer goods companies launched the "Decarbonization friendly Action" program for consumer products while issuing a guide for how brands can boost their low-carbon products, marketing, and logistics.