The list of priorities for shippers today is never-ending. They are constantly checking inventory, worrying about packing orders correctly, and getting the order out the door as fast as possible. All of this is done to achieve record delivery times and meet customer expectations. But in addition to the normal day-to-day in the warehouse, shippers have a new priority – sustainability.

    While extremely fast delivery times offered by Amazon and other shippers continue to be a focal point for the marketplace, consumers now also want to purchase from environmentally friendly companies. According to a recent global survey from J. Walter Thompson Intelligence, 83% of adults surveyed in the US, UK, Australia, and China would always pick a brand that has a better record of sustainability. The majority of this group (90%) also feel that companies have a responsibility to take care of the planet and its people.

    This demand for environmentally friendly companies matters to shippers since the first impression a customer has of the company and its sustainability efforts is when they receive their order. This is evident through the millions of unboxing videos online showcasing the good, the bad, and the ugly of order packaging. Some videos feature customers’ excitement as they receive their orders, while others criticize shippers for the amount of void fill used, the unnecessary large parcel, and even the use of plastic packaging. These negative videos can harm a shipper’s brand and even sway the customer to purchase at a competitor who places a higher priority on sustainability.

    While companies may understand customers’ desires for green packaging, it is often difficult for shippers to implement environmentally friendly processes into the warehouse. Many equate sustainability with higher costs, as they must use new ecological packaging or develop new procedures in the warehouse. These changes are enough to make shippers avoid the process altogether. However, those that have tried green shipping practices have found better warehouse efficiencies and even cost savings.

    Steps Towards Sustainability

    Understanding the importance of sustainability is one thing, but recognizing the steps to get there is another battle. Luckily, there are three simple and achievable steps to reaching green efficiency and more cost savings.

    Step 1: Eliminate plastic use. This is the easiest step as shippers can eliminate plastic packaging and any plastic void fill by switching to only corrugated material and 100% recyclable void fill. This step alone will showcase the company’s commitment to the environment.

    Step 2: Create fit-to-size parcels. With corrugated material already in the warehouse, shippers can create custom-fit parcels in order to eliminate excessively large packages and void fill materials. Customers will enjoy these fit-to-size parcels as this type of packaging has been found to cause less damage to orders while in transit.

    In addition to exceeding the customer’s expectations, the custom-fit parcels reduce overall shipping costs. By creating the smallest package necessary, each parcel uses less shipping materials and has a lower DIM weight, saving both shipping materials and costs.

    Step 3: Implement automated packaging solutions. To create greener warehouse efficiencies, many shippers turn to new systems that can measure, construct, tape, weigh, and label every order while creating custom-fit parcels. This can save shippers time and money as the automated packaging solutions can create this parcel in as little as seven seconds using only one operator. These solutions also reduce the need for many different types of corrugated boxes, as the automated packaging solution utilizes fan-fold corrugate for flexible box configurations.

    As customers continue to push for more environmentally friendly companies, shippers can take advantage of this new demand and save thousands. Through green efficiencies, shippers can use this competitive advantage for better return on investment as well as a way to market to new customers. In the end, these three simple steps towards sustainability will help the environment, which is a win in itself.

    Steve Brandt is the North American Director of Automated Packaging Solutions at ProShip, Inc., a Neopost Company, and a global provider of logistics software and product solutions, including enterprise-wide, multi-carrier shipping and manifesting software, automated packing solutions and intelligent parcel lockers. With over 20 years of industry experience, Steve is passionate about helping distribution centers relieve their daily challenges with automation. Prior to joining Neopost, Steve held multiple executive positions with Dematic, where marketing and customer service were his primary focus. For more information, please visit www.proshipinc.comand follow the company on LinkedIn.