The Intersection of Data and Sustainability in Commerce: Why Businesses Must Focus on Both in 2023

The Intersection of Data and Sustainability in Commerce: Why Businesses Must Focus on Both in 2023

As the world becomes increasingly concerned with the impact of human activities on the planet, sustainability has become a top priority for many businesses. However, there is a common misconception that profitability and sustainability are mutually exclusive.

The truth is that one cannot exist without the other, especially in 2023, where commerce businesses are increasingly focusing on sustainability while also trying to remain profitable.

In this blog post, we will explore the intersection of data and sustainability in commerce and why businesses must focus on both to succeed.

Why the Three Pillars of Sustainability Aren't Enough: Companies Need to Think 360° for Real Impact 

Sustainability is not just about the environment, social responsibility, and economic aspects; it's a much wider concept. Although companies have been able to report on these three pillars of sustainability to some extent, limiting their sustainability efforts within these themes only disconnects eCommerce from the larger system of the trade industry and its operating environment.

In 2023, it is important for companies to understand that sustainability cannot be limited to these categories. The focus should be on net impact thinking and sustainability data, which can help understand the overall impact of commerce on the system.

Therefore, businesses must adopt a 360-degree approach to sustainability, considering all aspects of their operations and their impact on the environment, society, and the economy. Positive impact with commerce can only be achieved by taking a holistic approach to sustainability.

The Role of DTC in Sustainability

As consumption and purchasing become increasingly shameful, the role of direct-to-consumer (DTC) in enabling much good and providing opportunities at many levels is forgotten, and on a large scale, it gives people the opportunity to sell and buy. DTC levels the playing field and, on the other hand, enables large brands to experiment - including in terms of sustainability.

We have already seen how large brands collaborate with small players in developing countries, collaborations succeed with DTC and, on the other hand, DTC allows having a direct dialogue with customers. So, at the same time as well-being states want to reduce purchasing, DTC enables participation in emerging countries. Again, we can see positive impacts! 

The Connection Between Commerce Data and Sustainability Data

The pain points of commerce, such as inventory management and circulation, sales, eCommerce logistics, and returns, are just as much a part of sustainable business as they are sources of emissions. As these are optimised for profitability and improved processes, they directly affect sustainability. Emissions decrease and choices inevitably lead toward more sustainable business.

eCommerce must also consider the end of the product's life cycle and how it is disposed of, as well as the environmental impact of transportation. The aim is for eCommerce to become a driving force for sustainable development, not just a passive participant.

Common (Carbon) Footprint

As consumers begin to understand the impact of their actions, such as the impact of returns on their carbon footprint and the overall emissions of businesses, we will see real change. When brand regulation makes things mandatory and transparent, the opportunity for collective responsibility emerges. There cannot be one without the other, there cannot be commerce without the consumer.

This train of thought also includes terms such as sustainable payment and sustainable advertising. Who and how do we advertise, do we advertise to children, is our influencer marketing sustainable, which payment methods do we allow, and how do we approach customer groups that produce the most returns? This is no longer a matter of data or technology, but rather a matter of whether data is used in these issues.

Why Businesses Must Focus on Both Data and Sustainability

To summarise, net impact thinking and sustainability data may be the key conversation in 2023, discussing the conditions and overall impact of commerce. The goal is to remain on the positive side, but the net impact cannot be used to hide the flaws of eCommerce and commerce. Emissions related to manufacturing must be measured honestly, and responsibility must be taken for the implementation of human rights. The use of earth's resources must be reported transparently.

As eCommerce continues to grow, it is crucial to recognise the ethical and sustainability challenges that come with it. Woolman's data team, led by Ellis, has produced data on these issues for a year now, and the data inevitably shows the impact of sustainability on business. These ethical challenges also have significant business value.

This comes as a surprise to almost all customers, as focusing on sustainability is also focusing on the economy. Therefore, addressing the core challenges of eCommerce is also addressing sustainability. Sustainability experts emphasise the unsustainability of production, but by developing operational functions, we can also address this and influence production and its harmfulness. These "simple" problems "that just come with the industry" ultimately have a significant impact on sustainability, not just in terms of the environment, but also in terms of social and societal responsibility.

Headlines in sustainable work with data

In addition to Woolman's data platform, Ellis and Ellis knowledge, there are many potential topics for discussion in 2023 regarding responsible eCommerce. Responsible advertising, online responsible advertising: enabling considered purchasing, sustainable influencer marketing, minimising returns, diversity, and accessibility, advertising about payment methods, or sustainable purchasing are just a few examples.

Many companies are still at a stage where sustainability is being considered at the strategic and values level, but we encourage considering it at the operational level as well. Sustainability can also be approached in this way!

We predict

We predict that pioneers will form their policies and practices, creating a new standard for eCommerce, and there will be a focus on collaboration between businesses, consumers, and policymakers. The role of data in sustainability will also be a hot topic, as it is a key factor in understanding the impact of eCommerce and making informed decisions. The challenge will be to find a way to make data available and understandable to all stakeholders.


Written by Head of Responsibilty Hanna Liimatainen

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