Sustainable Black Friday Ideas For Ecommerce Retailers in 2021

If you’re looking to deliver a more sustainable Black Friday experience to your customers this year, look no further! We explore how consumers’ priorities are changing, before diving into some green initiatives to adopt on your ecommerce store.

Written By
Hannah Smiddy

With its slashed price tags, frenzied sales and unchecked purchasing, Black Friday is regarded as the epitome of hyper-consumerism. Many shoppers feel the pressure to simply “buy for the sake of buying”, with carelessly ordered products often being sent straight to landfill after a strong case of buyer’s remorse.

An ugly illustration of the retail industry’s “take-make-dispose” model in action, it’s easy to see why this day is viewed as the antithesis of sustainability.

Change is in the air though. Each year, the cries for a more environmentally-friendly Black Friday become louder and an increasing number of brands use the occasion to launch green initiatives.

As we approach Black Friday 2021, the appetite for purpose-led businesses with inherent sustainable values has never been greater.

In this article, we’re exploring how online retailers can deliver a more sustainable Black Friday for their customers – from offsetting the carbon footprint of orders, to launching a product repairs service. But first, let’s take a look at how sustainability is becoming a top priority for consumers.

Is green the new black for consumers?

As we become more conscious of the environmental impact of mass consumerism, and with the climate crisis intensifying around us, consumers are increasingly on the lookout for sustainable ecommerce brands doing their bit to protect the planet.

Shoppers are changing their behaviour and voting with their wallets: whilst they champion (and purchase more from) brands who commit to sustainability, research by Deloitte in March 2021 also revealed that one in three consumers has stopped purchasing certain products, or from certain brands, because of sustainability concerns1.

Specifically, shoppers want to see brands using sustainable packaging, offering low-emission delivery options, and offsetting the carbon footprint of shipping2.

Consumers are also increasingly demanding greener products. Recent research reveals a staggering increase in the number of searches for sustainable products over the past five years3, as well as a huge rise in demand for second hand products4.

How to deliver a sustainable Black Friday for online shoppers

So, amidst increasing pressure from consumers for retailers to support the environment, what initiatives can you employ on your ecommerce store to deliver a more sustainable Black Friday this year? Let us take you through some ideas to keep in mind as November 26th approaches.

Help customers give back with a green initiative

Go green this Black Friday and choose an eco-friendly project or charity to support. Whether it’s through a donation scheme or a one-for-one-model, create opportunities for customers to have a direct, tangible impact on a sustainable cause with every purchase.

Not only is this a great opportunity to demonstrate your values as a retailer and do your bit for the environment, but the empowerment it gives customers will help create meaningful brand-consumer connections that inspire brand loyalty.

When it comes to choosing a project or charitable campaign to give back to, make sure it’s one that clearly aligns with the ethos of your brand. The partnership needs to make sense to shoppers as a natural fit, else it risks coming across as inauthentic (more on this later!).

In 2020, refillable natural deodorant brand Wild promised to plant two trees for every sale of its new black case deodorant over the Black Friday weekend. This initiative was an added extra to their ongoing partnership with climate charity On A Mission, which Wild regularly donates to in order to support reforestation projects. Throughout their marketing of the planting program, they emphasised how each purchase would have a “personal impact on local communities, biodiversity, soil regeneration and, of course, our climate”5.

Global footwear and apparel brand Allbirds took a more conscious approach to Black Friday 2020 as well. Breaking the tradition of discounts and super-sales, the certified B corp actually raised the price of their products by £1 for the BFCM weekend, and donated this extra money to international climate action movement Fridays For Future – a cause that aligns perfectly with Allbirds’ commitment to sustainability. They also matched the £1 customer donation with a donation of their own.

Add eco-friendly options to the purchase journey

Consider using Black Friday to launch a more sustainable shopping experience for your customers. Not only is this good news for the planet, but it could do wonders for your conversion and retention metrics. Let’s take a look at a few eco-friendly options you could introduce on your website.

First up, how about giving customers the option to make their orders carbon neutral? Consider leveraging a plugin, like EcoCart, that calculates and displays the carbon footprint of an order, then presenting options for how the customer can offset these emissions (whether it’s by planting a tree or donating towards a green initiative).

Grain-free breakfast brand Wildway uses EcoCart on its Shopify store, giving shoppers the chance to offset their orders’ emissions with a donation. Alternatively, as a brand, you could choose to take responsibility for your footprint and fund the offset on behalf of your customers.

When it comes to shipping, sustainability is fast becoming a high priority for today’s shoppers – the greener, the better. With this in mind, why not use BFCM to launch some new eco-friendly fulfilment options on your ecommerce site?

Providing local delivery is a great way to reduce your total delivery mileage and lower your environmental impact (not to mention reducing the distance between your stock and end-consumers, making it faster to distribute items!). And, if you haven’t already, you could transition to more eco-friendly packaging that’s compostable or recyclable.

Educate and inspire shoppers

How about turning Black Friday into a day of education, informing and inspiring your customers about sustainability?

This could be as simple as providing links to helpful online learning resources or creating a space on your website to answer all those frequently asked questions that consumers often have about where to start when it comes to shopping more sustainably.

Alternatively, if you have the resources, you could create a series of educational blog posts or videos that dive into key areas of sustainability in your specific industry.

Or, what about creating a forum or community that encourages your customers to engage in conversation and share practical tips for living more sustainably? Not only will this get people talking about an important issue and hopefully inspire change, but uniting your customers over a common cause will build strong emotional relationships that add value to your brand experience.

Embrace the recommerce revolution

Whilst “recommerce”, or “resale” as it’s otherwise known, used to be a somewhat stigmatised practice associated with undesirable products, it’s now a mainstream concept playing a significant role in combating today’s throwaway culture. It’s all about closing the loop on retail waste and protecting the earth’s natural resources by keeping goods in circulation for longer.

This is a trend that won’t be disappearing any time soon. The recommerce market is set for some serious growth over the next decade, with forecasts placing it at twice the size of the fast fashion market by 20296!

You can support a more sustainable Black Friday by adopting a recommerce model and helping to maximise the lifespan of your products. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Introduce a pre-loved Black Friday collection on your ecommerce store, allowing customers to buy and sell like-new products of yours that are no longer wanted.
  • Offer a Black Friday repairs service for items that might be in need of a little TLC, helping keep products in use for longer.
  • Launch a new recycling program for tired or damaged items that are beyond repair – keeping them out of landfill and transforming them into something entirely new.

When it comes to inspo for recommerce initiatives (albeit a rather radical example!), look no further than responsible fashion studio Raeburn, who previously ran a “Buy Nothing, Repair Something” campaign for Black Friday. The brand closed its stores and website for the day, instead inviting customers to have clothing from any brand repaired for free in their sewing lab.

Authenticity and honesty are key

Before we wrap up, we’ve got a couple of tips to keep in mind as you prepare for a sustainable Black Friday.

Be authentic

Brands’ approaches to sustainability are under more scrutiny than ever before. Disingenuous initiatives and misleading information can lead to claims of greenwashing, backfiring on brands big time as consumers vote with their wallets and find more authentic alternatives.

Instead, sustainability needs to be an inherent part of your brand’s identity, aligning with your values and goals as a retailer.

Be transparent about (and celebrate!) your progress

Even if you’re just starting out on your mission to be a more sustainable ecommerce brand, celebrate the small wins you’ve had so far. Be transparent; give customers an update on how you’re progressing towards your long-term goals, even if there’s still a long road ahead.

Not only will shoppers appreciate your honesty, but your sustainability efforts can influence their perceptions of your brand’s quality and value.

To summarise

Empowered shoppers are calling for a more sustainable retail industry and choosing to only buy from brands who are actively reducing their environmental impact. This extends to Black Friday too.

Whether it’s something simple like providing links to helpful sustainability resources, or a more radical move like rejecting the traditional sales and raising your prices to support an eco-friendly charity, there are steps you can take to embrace a more sustainable Black Friday in 2021.

But, whatever you decide to do to make the day greener, make sure it aligns with your brand, your values and your customers.

Your carbon neutral ecommerce agency

Whilst efforts are being made to integrate greener initiatives into the ecommerce industry, such as eco-friendly packaging and clothing recycling schemes, as yet, sustainable solutions haven’t stretched to ecommerce website development and marketing services themselves.

Swanky is working hard to change this.

We’re proud to be a carbon neutral agency, passionate about establishing a blueprint for sustainable ecommerce services and enabling our clients and their customers to make more environmentally friendly choices. Find out more about our carbon neutral commitment here.


For reference:

[1] https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/consumer-business/articles/sustainable-consumer.html

[2] https://www.lloydsloadinglist.com/freight-directory/adviceandinsight/E-commerce-delivery-expectations-continue-to-grow/78754.htm#.YVW7T7hKg2z

[3] https://www.climateaction.org/news/wwf-huge-rise-in-demand-for-sustainable-goods-during-pandemic

[4] https://www.thredup.com/resale/#size-and-impact

[5] https://www.wearewild.com/blogs/news/we-want-to-plant-at-least-10-000-trees-this-black-friday

[6] https://www.thredup.com/resale/#resale-growth

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