2021 > The Fulfillment Innovation Wheel: Sustainable Fulfillment

ShipHero recently launched The Fulfillment Innovation Wheel to help 3PLs understand what capabilities and service offerings they need to implement in order to be successful and to help online retailers and brands choose which 3PL is right for them by allowing them to ‘check the boxes’.

The Fulfillment Innovation Wheel listed a set of twelve (12) capabilities that fulfillment providers and logistics companies should implement to continually delight their customers and push themselves towards greater success and innovation.

The twelve capabilities are:

  1. 2-day delivery
  2. Same day shipping
  3. At the box personalization
  4. Designed for returns
  5. Sustainable fulfillment
  6. Resilient shipping
  7. Distributed fulfillment
  8. Data now
  9. Automation
  10. Scale up and out
  11. Integration stack
  12. Professional services

In this article, we will be diving into Capability #5: Sustainable fulfillment.  

And be sure to stay tuned for future articles as we deep-dive into each capability.

Capability #5: Sustainable Fulfillment

Cut down your company’s waste, improve your brand image. Sounds like a win-win, doesn’t it? That’s the power of Sustainable Fulfillment — eCommerce order fulfillment that minimizes the environmental impacts of your supply chain.

eCommerce waste is a much more serious problem than you think. In 2018, the EPA estimated that packaging accounts for about 30% of all household waste. Moreover, with packaging made from plastics, only 9% of all plastics has ever been recycled, with the rest ending up in our oceans, forests, and landfills. 

Beyond the harm to the environment, inconsiderate packaging hurts your brand reputation as well. Think back to opening a large box to find a much smaller product inside, or individually-wrapped parts, and thinking “what a waste!”

Poor packaging leads to brands being labeled as inconsiderate or wasteful, and in a world where GenZ-types and Greta Thunberg’s run wild, your company should avoid this image at all costs.

So, how can your company achieve Sustainable Fulfillment? The answer lies in using proper packaging, planning intelligent shipping, and bringing awareness to your customer base.

How to Create Sustainable Fulfillment

If you fulfill orders in-house, you can reference the list below to achieve Sustainable Fulfilment. If you use a 3PL or third-party fulfillment provider, be sure that they have taken the necessary steps to create Sustainable Fulfillment for your business. 

Sustainable eCommerce Packaging

Right-size packaging and eco-friendly packaging for your products is a necessary step towards Sustainable Fulfillment. More and more eCommerce businesses are using on-demand packaging for their products, and eliminating over-boxing by shipping the product in its original carton. 

Right-size packaging means avoiding product packaging that is exorbitantly larger than the product itself, or eliminating excess materials or fillers.

Eco-friendly packaging means using recycled or renewable materials that are biodegradable or easily disposed of. 

Your company may use large packaging with fillers to avoid damaging the product, but with breakthroughs in reusable and recyclable eCommerce packaging, you can avoid the damage while offering a great unboxing experience. 

Companies like NoIssue exist to create sustainable, customized packaging. 

Intelligent Order Fulfillment & Routing

Carbon emissions from transportation are another major source of waste in your supply chain. Last mile delivery and air freight make up a majority of carbon emissions in logistics, so transportation optimization and intelligent inventory management are significant ways of reducing your carbon footprint.

Transportation Optimization starts at the distribution center. By using Warehouse or Order Management Software (WMS/OMS) to route your orders correctly, your company can identify the most viable distribution center to ship orders in terms of delivery speed and cost. Additionally, last-mile delivery routes should be calculated to reduce mileage and ensure the most energy-efficient routes are selected. 

Intelligent Inventory Management means that your inventory is placed in the warehouse closest to your customers, also known as distributed fulfillment, to reduce shipping distance and costs. Also, using WMS/OMS to ensure that orders are picked, packed and loaded correctly helps to reduce returns, reroutes and expedited shipping. 

Our clients have used the above two strategies to lower the carbon footprint of our clients fulfillment while still guaranteeing affordable two-day shipping, powered by ShipHero SaaS Warehouse Management Software. 

Our clients use our proprietary inventory forecasting capability to intelligently distribute their inventory across our nationwide network of warehouses. From there, we help them prioritize ground-shipping and avoid wasteful air-freight and expedited shipping. Not to mention, our clients use our SaaS WMS to accurately pick, pick and ship orders all from their tablet or mobile device.  

Spread Awareness

Once your business has adopted Sustainable Fulfillment, the final step is to educate your customers! If you use recyclable materials, let your customers know so they can ensure responsible disposal and feel part of the solution. By getting customers on board with your eco-friendly efforts, you can have a much wider positive impact on the environment as a business.

You should advertise the steps you’ve taken towards Sustainable Fulfillment, and consider using packaging inserts in your orders that explain why your business took these steps and what customers can do to help. Adding this packaging insert has little to no added disruption to your fulfillment process, and it is a phenomenal way to reduce waste and improve your brand.

Our customers love that ShipHero allows them to completely customize their boxing experience, including packaging, inserts, and materials. If your 3PL or fulfillment provider doesn’t offer this, then maybe it’s time for a switch. ShipHero has $5 billion in orders shipped to date, and we attribute this success on the Fulfillment Innovation Wheel to Capability #5: Sustainable Fulfillment.