Green marketing explained by eco-friendly eCommerce experts

Flowers

a 12-minute read

Eco-friendly eCommerce has been on the rise as more people are looking to support sustainable businesses, but this doesn’t mean that the business owners and green marketers don’t face big challenges. In our newest collection of interviews with eco-friendly online shop owners and marketers, we will talk about what green marketing is, what makes this audience so special and what are some things you can do to increase conversion rates of your eco-friendly online business.

We will also discuss some of the biggest challenges for eco-friendly online shops and answer questions like “How do I stay environmentally friendly when my product is not?” or “Why should I care about Earth Day if my business doesn’t directly deal with environmental sustainability?”. We hope that after reading this collection of interviews you will have a better understanding of all the benefits that come from being an eco-friendly business or doing your part (even in a small way) to raise awareness on this important topic.

Chris McGurrin, Sustainability & Community Experience Manager at EarthHero

Daniel Grande, Chief Experience Officer of Arbor

Tiziana Pittini, Founder and Designer at CRØSS THE.LINE studio

*This list will be continuously updated.


A photo of Chris McGurrin, sustainability and community experience manager at EarthHero, eco-friendly ecommerce business, on a blue background with tropical and forest leaves.

Tell us briefly about your background and the company you work for.

I’ve been working in the natural products industry for years, and have observed the market from a holistic perspective. My main focus is sustainability in the consumer packaged goods sector, which brought me to EarthHero.

EarthHero is an e-commerce retailer focused on bringing sustainable products to consumers. Our goal is to make sustainable shopping so easy that everyone does it. Our marketplace is a curated experience where consumers can be confident that what they are purchasing from us is truly eco-friendly and not greenwashed. Our team is made up of sustainability experts, and we vet all of our suppliers based on our 5-Step Methodology. We are a certified B Corp, 1% for the Planet and Carbon Neutral company based out of Boulder, Colorado.

What made you go the eco-friendly way?

It all originated with our founder, Ryan Lewis. To put it simply, Ryan and the rest of the EarthHero team firmly believe that with every dollar you spend, you vote for the world you want. The truth is, there are plenty of truly inspiring, sustainable products in the world that have an incredibly positive impact on our planet. The more people shop sustainably, the smaller our collective footprint, the happier our planet is. We believe buying online can be sustainable if done the right way. That’s what we strive to do. 

What do you see as the biggest challenge for eco-friendly eCommerce businesses?

Our current culture of convenience and low-cost products had made paying a premium for higher quality products more challenging. The e-commerce giant has created a culture of cheap products for immediate fixes. The truth is, many of those inexpensive options are not only bad for the environment in their production, but they also have a shorter lifespan, leading the consumer to purchase a replacement sooner than they need to, which leads to excess waste.

Sustainable products are good for the environment in their production and last longer. Because of their higher quality materials, they’ll outlast conventional products and give the consumer a much more elevated experience. For that reason, they come at a premium that is well worth the extra dollars. That said, this takes a shift in mindset on how we purchase products. 

What is the most important thing you learned about your audience?

Our community wants to shop sustainably.  Our audience is made up of seasoned sustainability experts and individuals that are brand new to the eco-movement. We are reminded that in order for this movement to be as impactful as possible, we need to be as inclusive as possible to anyone wanting to reduce their impact, and we can help them. Our community is very concerned with the state of our planet and wants to be more engaged in their personal responsibility. We are here to help them by supporting their journey with eco-friendly options.  

What is your favorite technique to increase your lead or sale conversion rates?

It’s all about knowing your customers. What’s your unique differentiator? For us, it’s the trust our community has in us as sustainability experts. Because we have a curated marketplace, they know that what we have on our site has our full trust and support. Ultimately, it’s about reinforcing the consumer’s perception of our brand, through education and content, ensuring it aligns with our core values and mission as a business. 

How will you celebrate Earth Day the digital way? Share your favorite green marketing idea for this day. 

We were so happy to support Plastic Oceans this week. Each sale will protect 1,000 square feet of sea turtle habitat from plastic waste through Plastic Oceans.

The specific Plastic Oceans program we are donating to is called the Campeche Turtle Project, and its mission is to save the critically endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle. Plastic Oceans has partnered with Ninth Wave and Yuumtsil Káak Náab, two local NGOs in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, to collaborate on this effort. Together, they’ve worked on a multi-level community approach that focuses on plastic reduction initiatives, beach cleanups, education for youths and adults, research, arts, and culture. As of September 2020, a record number of Hawksbill Sea Turtle nests are under their protection, and they’ve helped thousands of hatchlings make their way to the sea! You can learn more about the Campeche Turtle project here!

The public tends to be skeptical of green claims. What should one do to assure the audience in honest environmental commitment?

Be completely honest and transparent. Back up your claims with specific percentages, ingredients, materials, certifications. etc. You need to be able to prove what you claim. There are many layers to sustainability, and it’s important to be fully informed before making claims that can influence consumers. It’s important for companies to be authentic in their work – to be driven by a true desire to heal our planet, not to profit on a growing trend. 

Share your pro-advice: What small changes can one make in business that, over time, have a hugely positive effect on the environment?

There is no shortage of ways a business can become more environmentally friendly. It’s important to audit the business and identify all of the different ways practices can be improved. Then, start small and scale your efforts over time. Make real, actionable goals for 1, 3, and 5 years in advance. Hold yourselves accountable, because if you don’t, eventually, consumers will. A few places to start are: 

  • Dedicate a resource within the company to perform research, audit and implement sustainable practices. 
  • Create access for recycling and composting.
  • Post educational content to support your customers and partners.
  • Cultivate a zero-waste environment.
  • Utilize sustainable products in the kitchen, bathrooms, and office.
  • Step away from single-use, throw away “swag” and instead invest in higher-quality, eco-friendly products for gifting. 

A man with short hair, Daniel Grande, in black and white on blue background with nature elements.

Tell us briefly about your background and the company you work for.

My name is Daniel Grande, and I’m lucky enough to be the Chief Experience Officer of Arbor. Arbor is an online platform that helps consumers align their spending with their values. Through data aggregation and visualization, we allow consumers to see the true impact their purchases have.

What made you go the eco-friendly way?

To us, it was a non-option.

We saw the way the pandemic drastically changed the climate in various regions due to the shutdown of major corporations’ supply chains. We saw a rise in supporting local and minority owned businesses, and a higher pushback against companies that were not acting with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) towards their bottom line.

After doing some research, we found that “13% of consumers would pay 31-50% more for your products or services if they were under the impression that your business is making a positive impact on the world.” So why are companies not actually becoming more “eco-friendly?”

Because of greenwashing.

Three quarters of adults in the UK admit that they are not able to determine if a brand is greenwashing them. This is where increased transparency and accountability must come in, and in turn, Arbor.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for eco-friendly eCommerce businesses?

The biggest challenge going forward for eco-friendly eCommerce businesses is the lack of ability for businesses to determine if their suppliers are also eco-friendly.

Just because you may plant a tree for every purchase doesn’t necessarily mean that your business is “eco-friendly.” These businesses need to trace their products and services all the way down their supply chain. If you are selling goods that are manufactured from unethical palm oil, the net impact will still be negative even if you plant a tree. The solution to this is purchasing from companies that are verified to be doing things the clean, green way.

What is the most important thing you learned about your audience?

One of the most important things we’ve learned about our consumers is that there is a gap between those who say they want to shop more sustainably, and those that do.

This is largely due to three factors:

  • Price,
  • Convenience, and
  • Information.

Arbor is working to lower the green premium to decrease the cost necessary to provide eco-friendly products. We are also working on a marketplace to make Values Based Shopping as convenient and simple as possible. Finding information around eco-friendly and sustainable products is the most difficult part. As stated above, 3/4 of UK adults don’t know if the information they’re receiving is truly accurate. This is slowly changing through national policies, such as the U.S.A mandating stricter Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) compliances.

What is your favorite technique to increase your lead or sale conversion rates?

One technique we’ve seen companies use is what we call “clean deals.”

Compared to normal deals such as buy one get one free, or 30% off, clean deals give the monetary incentive to social or environmental causes. Companies like TOMS shoes, tentree, United By Blue, and 4Ocean all use this technique to help drive sales and make a smaller net impact of their business.

The public tends to be skeptical of green claims. What should one do to assure the audience in honest environmental commitment?

This really is the question that will solve the sustainability issue.

Right now, there is a large trust issue in North America. People used to trust the government – they don’t anymore. They turned to the media in order to have accountability for the government. Now, people don’t trust the media anymore either, so where else do they have to turn?

In order to assure the audience in honest environmental commitment, we must use unbiased, authentic, quantifiable data both externally and internally. There are sources for external data; however, internal data must be reported through the company itself. This is an issue because if companies are doing bad by the environment, they won’t usually disclose their internal data.

Share your pro-advice: What small changes can one make in business that, over time, have a hugely positive effect on the environment?

One change that businesses can make is to be more transparent. When a business becomes more transparent, it allows for more accountability in their practices. Using a “free market” point of view, people will start flocking towards companies that are eco-friendly, exhibit great social responsibility, and are more sustainable than the average.

Green marketing is powerful, but it is also an expensive double-edged sword. Is it worth it?

100%. But only if you actually walk the talk.

If a business puts out green marketing when they aren’t actually green, the data will show, and it will be labeled as hypocritical. However, if a business is actually green, they should be proud to show it. It’s a fine line to walk, but if your heart and supply chain are in the right place, the money will follow.


Tiziana Pittini, founder and designer at Cross the Line studio, an eco-friendly eCommerce business.

Tell us briefly about your background and the company you work for.

I’m originally an interior designer from Switzerland. I have mainly lived in Switzerland and Spain as well. I moved almost two years ago to Lisbon and I have been working as a graphic designer which was the main reason why I started my business last year.

As a graphic designer, you draw different kinds of things, but what I was always really interested in is geometrical designs. So I started to draw my own tattoos! That was in late 2019 and I felt like this was some side-gig I could develop on the side. But, when I started talking about collaborations with various artists, the lockdown began. 

Around that time I read an article about a guy who created an online whop within 24 hours, so I decided to try it myself, and transfer my designs on T-shirts! And that’s how I launched CRØSS THE.LINE studio.

Through Shopify, I found a partner that is printing with sustainable, water-based, non harming ink on clothes that they buy from Stanley Stella, which is a line of sustainable clothing. They are a blank brand, so you can buy their stuff, print your own and then sell it as your own.

I created a strategy for the whole year backed with season plans, with ocean and urban series, a forest series for the fall etc. And I started promoting my business on Instagram. The rest is history!

What made you go the eco-friendly way?

My general lifestyle. I am a vegetarian because I think the meat industry has a huge impact on our environment and too big of an impact on animal safety and well being. This is a really important thing for me, as much as the whole global warming, climate change, plastic pollution, all these issues are really important to me. So for me, eco-friendly fashion was a very natural way to go.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for eco-friendly eCommerce businesses?

Prices. It was really interesting because many of my friends know how I feel about all these things and they feel similar about some of them. They don’t share some values of course. But even though they are familiar with the process, they thought that my t-shirts are so expensive! They were 39€ in the beginning, and then I lowered the price to 29€ which, in the end, meant that I basically didn’t make any profit at all.

So I think the biggest issue is really that fast fashion, but also fast technology, fast furniture, fast anything has just ruined people’s ability to judge the value of things they buy.

In my opinion, pricing is the biggest struggle for anyone doing something in an eco-friendly and sustainable field. Everybody tells you “oh yeah, it’s great what you do, but I don’t want to pay for it.”

What is the most important thing you learned about your audience?

The feedback I got was really positive because people are very invested once they understand what you do. They are fully behind it and they’re very supportive. But over time, I learned that these kind of people are a really difficult audience because they are hard to convert even though they are super enthusiastic about what you’re doing.

The positive side was that I met a lot of people that are pro-protect the oceans and other causes that I support as well. So, in the end, I think that the audience in this field allows you to create a very strong community, and this is probably what separates them the most from the others.

How will you celebrate Earth Day the digital way? Share your favorite green marketing idea for this day.

This is always funny because I think I would call for an offline time. As we know the “digital” is not very earth-friendly.

Though, if I have to choose a digital way of celebrating it, it would probably be in the form of a giveaway or maybe a discount. But again, I normally use this day to raise awareness of the importance of going the eco-friendly way. Even though, sometimes, this makes leading a profitable online shop very challenging.

The public tends to be sceptical of green claims. What should one do to assure the audience in honest environmental commitment?

Trying to be as transparent as possible. This was a bit difficult for me because I’m acquiring these clothes from an intermediary that gets their clothes from someone third. But even though this was very challenging, I found a way to be open and honest about these things, I published all of the labels I used because I realised that it is important to educate people about them, what they do.

And in the end, this proved to be the right tactic. So, to sum it up, educating your audience and being as transparent as possible is the only way to fight scepticism.

Share your pro-advice: What small changes can one make in business that, over time, have a hugely positive effect on the environment?

If I assume that the product itself is already environment-friendly, then I would try to optimize also everything around it, like the packaging.

But you could also go beyond your product and organize beach cleanups. That’s what I did! The first time only five people showed up, but then they told other people about it, and the word started spreading. I think that making others take action and educating them will transform them into carriers of the message you want to share.

What does it mean to be eco-friendly?

Well, numerous things make you eco-friendly. I personally tackle this by finding alternative ways to eat or consume energy. Even though some of my methods sound very hippie, and they might be super small steps, they are nevertheless important.

Eco-friendly is not about being super perfect. It’s not about being a hyper-activist that takes it to extremist lengths.  I think it’s more about trying to make a difference by doing small things.

It’s better to do a couple of small, eco-friendly things than be extreme about plastic pollution, but then go to the supermarket and buy pork for dinner.  This is very hypocritical, and I think we should all just consider that we’re an ecosystem and that we work together. It’s not like humans are one group and then everything else comes after.

SHARE ON
Facebook Twitter Linkedin
  • Accelerate growth with clear and actionable insights into visitor behaviour
  • Supercharge your conversion optimization program with new data-backed test ideas
  • Increase your revenue month-over-month with data-driven experiments
  • Stop wasting money and identify website conversion leaks you don’t know exist

Book a Discovery Call & Get a FREE Analysis

BOOK YOUR CALL

Step 1 of 4