How to incorporate the circular economy into your e-commerce

Hand holds a circular symbol on the palm

Hand holds a circular symbol on the palm

Circular economy How to incorporate the circular economy into your e-commerce

Published on 25.07.2023 by Marco Müller, Graduate Intern, Digital Commerce Consulting, Swiss Post

In this blog post, we explore the concept of the circular economy and its importance to online retailers, as well as presenting Kickbag, the reusable packaging solution. Discover practical insights on how you can incorporate the circular economy into your e-commerce activities and contribute to a greener future.

Understanding the circular economy

The circular economy is a regenerative approach that aims to redefine how we produce, use and dispose of goods. In contrast to the traditional linear model of “procure, manufacture and discard”, the circular economy promotes a full recycling system. It encourages companies to design products that are long-lasting, repairable and recyclable.

Watch this video to find out what a possible approach might look like:

Circular economy | Swiss Post

Benefits for online retailers

Online retailers can enjoy many benefits by adopting the principles of the circular economy. Firstly, they enhance their brand reputation and strengthen customer loyalty. Consumers are increasingly aware of sustainability and actively look for eco-friendly options. By aligning your company with the circular economy and adopting a green approach, you can attract and retain environmentally aware customers.

Secondly, incorporating the circular economy can produce long-term cost savings. By optimizing your supply chain, reducing waste and reusing materials, you can minimize production costs and improve your overall operational efficiency. A circular approach also promotes innovative business models, such as hiring or renovation services, which can create new sources of revenue.

These measures will help you contribute to the circular economy

There are lots of ways to integrate the circular economy into your e-commerce activities. The process starts with long-life product design, ideally consisting of recycled or reusable materials. The product lifespan can also be extended with repair services. Give your customers advice on eco-friendly use and disposal of products. Instead of disposing of used products, second-hand marketplaces provide an affordable option. Also analyse your supply chain to identify any areas where improvements can be made. Cut transport routes, combine consignments and work with eco-minded logistics partners. At Swiss Post, all consignments are delivered with the carbon-offset “pro clima” label. Opt for sustainable packaging materials, such as recycled cardboard or biodegradable alternatives. Try to minimize excess packaging and look at packaging options that can be reused or repurposed. Discuss sustainability with your customers and encourage them to provide feedback and proposals to improve your sustainability drive.

Kickbag – the packaging solution is becoming increasingly popular

A reusable packaging solution that’s already being used by several Swiss retailers, such as PKZ, Jumbo and Schuhhaus Walder, and is available from the solution provider Kickbag (in German). The St. Gallen-based startup was acquired by Swiss Post in December 2022.

Kickbag parcel sizes (product image)

The Kickbag is a reusable, flexible shipping bag made of recycled plastic with a hook and loop fastener. The robust, weatherproof and durable Kickbag can be used for shipping instead of traditional disposable packaging. Rather than disposing of shipping packaging after single use, the Kickbag can be returned to the mail-order company and then used again and again. To ensure reliable returns, the foldable Kickbag uses Swiss Post’s letter channel, taking advantage of existing infrastructure in a smart way.

Kickbag provides a simple, complete reusable packaging solution, including bags, labels and returns service. At entry level, Kickbag is available in the three sizes of S (5L), M (21L) and L (34L) at a price of CHF 3.50 to 4.00. For larger quantities, volume discounts and custom-design Kickbags are available, offering greater individuality and branding.

Man holding Kickbag under his arm

If the customer decides to return all or some of the goods, the shipping bag can be handed over at the nearest Swiss Post counter or My Post 24 terminal or conveniently collected from a home address. If the customer keeps the delivered goods, the empty bag can be folded to letter size and simply posted into the nearest Swiss Post letter box. Depending on the number of empty returns per month, this costs the retailer between CHF 1.00 and CHF 1.50 per return. A pre-franked returns label is included in the price.

Much of the environmental pollution from packaging is caused by the extraction of the raw materials and during production. By reusing the packaging, these emissions are spread over several use cycles. Typical cardboard packaging, however, tends to be used just once. In contrast, the use of Kickbags results in significant savings from the second time of usage. Up to 70 percent of emissions can be saved after five uses.

If you introduce reusable packaging, make sure you provide customers with clear instructions on how to return the packaging. You should also make sure you have a well-organized system in place for collecting and disinfecting the returned reusable packaging.

Incorporating the principles of the circular economy into your e-commerce activities offers a unique opportunity to promote sustainable growth and meet customer requirements. By providing alternative sustainable packaging options, online retailers can reduce waste, demonstrate their commitment to the circular economy and give their customers an eco-friendly option. This allows you to play a key role in ensuring a greener future, while also enjoying the benefits of greater customer retention and cost savings.

Marco Müller, graduate intern in digital commerce, Swiss Post

Marco Müller is a graduate intern in the digital commerce team at Swiss Post. In this role, he supports retailer customers in developing their level of digital maturity.

Portrait Marco Müller

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