Climate change is the defining issue of this generation. People worldwide are waking up to the negative impact of current consumption patterns. While advocating for system-wide change is important, individuals seeking improvements today can work on changing their habits. Spending money with sustainable businesses allows everyday people to vote for environmental responsibility.
How can customers make sure they’re supporting their values? Start by looking beyond mission statements and examine the results of a business’s actions. Sustainability commitments are important promises not just to customers, but to the planet as well.
Commerce Can Be Sustainable
Online shopping platform eBay has already taken the initiative. They are using their massive platform to advance the cause of specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (known as SDGs for short). eBay concentrates on the 6 goals that it does because they reflect material issues while enabling their business to grow in a responsible way. Forward-thinking companies want to be profitable for as long as possible, and securing the future of the planet is one more way to help make that dream a reality.
In their pursuit of a greener company, eBay realized that many of its current operations are already helping to build a sustainable future. For example, SDG #12 revolves around responsible consumption and production. eBay’s main business line is the resale of used goods in an online marketplace. Thanks to eBay, products can continuously find renewed life and value. When a consumer buys pre-owned goods instead of new, they keep one more item out of the landfill and decrease the strain on natural resources used to make new goods. To put eBay’s recommerce impact into numbers, sales of pre-owned electronics and apparel on eBay conserved 720,000 metric tons of carbon emissions in 2020 alone. That’s greater than the yearly carbon footprint of Puerto Rico, a territory home to over 3 million people.
How to Get to a Greener Future
Yet eBay isn’t only sticking to its strengths in encouraging a greener future. In accordance with SDG #7, which advocates for the proliferation of affordable clean energy, eBay has set the goal of using only renewable energy in its operations by 2025. As of 2020, eBay’s data centers and offices were powered by 74% renewables, meaning the company is 3 quarters of the way to completing its goal. One way eBay is able to pursue clean energy is through collaboration. eBay partners with other businesses and organizations to enable renewable energy purchases. Recently, eBay and McDonalds both agreed to purchase power from Lightsource bp, the largest solar project in Louisiana. By persuading other companies to use renewable energy in addition to doing so themselves, eBay is accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy.
Beyond the goals-aligned strategies, eBay has taken steps to reduce its water consumption. While the company used over 380,000 meters cubed of water in 2018, it brought that number down to just above 262,000 meters cubed in 2020. That is a drop of 31% over the course of just 2 years! Moreover, eBay has succeeded in diverting 555 tons of waste from landfills in San Jose in 2020 alone.
When comparing different companies that claim to be sustainable, customers should look for trends in the data. Are company emissions really falling? Are they using fewer natural resources than they were before? What base year are they measuring their progress against? On what timeline are they making changes? Conscious consumers should know how to hold companies accountable.
Saving the planet and growing one’s business doesn’t have to be at odds. By following eBay’s example, companies can identify the best ways to integrate their current operations with sustainable best practices. Customers can also take a business’s sustainability policies into consideration when deciding where to shop. Buying used on eBay is kinder to the planet than buying new from a less sustainable company. Most transitions to green operations are less costly than initially believed, and besides: the cost of an uninhabitable planet is far higher.