Make the Switch: Everything You Need to Consider When Going Green - EcoEnclose | EP. #50
In this 50th episode of The E-Comm Show, our host and BlueTuskr CEO Andrew Maff is with Saloni, the CEO and Chief Sustainability Officer at EcoEnclose, the world's most innovative provider of sustainable shipping solutions for e-commerce brands. In this day and age, branding goes beyond just the product. From the merchandise to the packaging, customers have been more critical of brands’ impact on sustainability. While it is often a debate between value and profits, here is Saloni to share what you really need to consider when making the switch.
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Make the Switch: Everything You Need to Consider When Going Green - EcoEnclose
Andrew Maff and Saloni Doshi
Saloni is the CEO and Chief Sustainability Officer at EcoEnclose, the world's most innovative provider of sustainable shipping solutions for ecommerce brands. She is passionate about helping conscious companies thrive and pursuing advancements that help build toward a truly circular materials economy. Prior to EcoEnclose, Saloni was a Managing Director at New Venture Advisors, a consultancy that supports the development and growth of sustainable food and agriculture. Professionally, Saloni's career has balanced social justice, environmental progress, and strategy - including the launch of Fresh Takes Kitchen, a social enterprise committed to improving healthy food access, and serving as a Director at Teach For America. Saloni lives in Colorado with her three children, whose deep and growing passion for the planet and all of its biodiversity inspires her for what the future may bring.
because there's been a lot of like surf surveys and studies that have shown like customers more and more particularly like like the next generation cares even more about the planet. And so there's actually a lot of studies that show that if you actually make investments into sustainability as a company and you showcase those investments on your website and everything that you do, customers are 60 to 80% more likely to stay loyal to your brand.
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everyone, and welcome to another episode of the E comm Show. I'm your host, Andrew Maff. And today I am here with the amazing scillonian Doshi of econ and CO close Saloni. How are you doing? Are you ready for a good show?
Oh, great. I'm very excited. To be great.
I'm really excited about this one. We don't do enough around the sustainability side. I haven't I don't think I've spoken to anyone on the show about this. And I know so many people who don't do it. And I don't really understand it. And I'm super excited to have you on here because then I can reference this episode. So let's pretend that no one knows anything about you, or obviously your business. And why don't you go ahead and kick us off? Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are.
That's great. Yeah, I'm Saloni, as you said, and I am the CEO and Chief Sustainability geek at Eco and clothes, eco encloses an E-commerce site. But we focus we're actually a b2b e-commerce site. And what we sell and offer is sustainable packaging. So we work with not only are we any commerce platform, or E-commerce site, we also work with other e-commerce shops to help them we always say, you know, there's companies out there, I referenced like prana Patagonia companies that have built their entire ethos around sustainability and being leaders and how they source their fabrics and what inks they use and how ethically they pay their workers, they want to also ship in ways that align with those values. So our focus is making sure that we are helping them be proud of how they ship that they're being you know, they're shipping in ways that are moving the planet forward, as well as, as their products also are. So that's what we do, we will serve like 30,000 companies this year, of which I always say like 28,000 of them are like mom and pop shops like, you know, think Etsy shops that are, you know, people are having their side hustle making beautiful jewelry in their basement, and maybe they're selling 1020 30 orders a month. And then you know, so we have a lot of our orders are those types of customers. And then about 2000 of our customers are, you know, more strategic sales, like enterprise level, household brand names where they need, you know, 500,000 2 million units, because that's their shipping volume. So we're sort of equipped to handle both. But I think that beautiful mix of customers has allowed us to constantly be innovating what we offer, and making sure that our packaging is like truly at the top of the game when it comes to a sustainability perspective.
Beautiful. Now when you say packaging or cardboard boxes, are we also including like tape, like what's the breadth of the
I mean, we could geek out on all of the nuances of packaging. I know you think it's so simple to like send a t-shirt, but there's like a lot of different things involve anything from corrugated boxes to every kind of Valor you could possibly imagine. So like 100%, recycled poly mailers, the line of different paper mailers, because you need different strengths and different design structures, depending on what you're selling. All of like the void fill that might go and solve it the replacements to like bubble wrap and plastic pillows and things like that tape, shipping labels, we also do a full line of custom branded everything. So anything that you want to ship in, you can also custom brand, which I think is a really important part of your E-commerce experience. And so across all of those, what we've done is say okay, what does it look like for this particular item to be the most sustainable in its class, and we have a framework about that. So I always say like, if you come to eco clothes, hopefully, you can really be confident like once you walk into, our shop, we get to our site, everything is tested, met our tests for sustainability. And so you could sort of shop around and get whatever you need it and be confident that it meets you know, it meets a high bar for him when it comes to eco friendly.
Cool. Did you start this business to acquire this business? Are you just kind of a sitting CEO like what's Yeah, great question?
I am an owner of the business. My husband and I actually acquired the business seven years ago; when we acquired it was like four people and like two product lines. And so we're now you know, 5560 people, and like 200 different product skews but we acquired it and it was like just looking back. I can't believe we did it but it was great it was a great opportunity. And a great idea for us because it's been just a wonderful ride.
Nice. Did so the product line you just listened to basically like it's every aspect of the package. It's not like you know the box is sustainable, but the shipping labels are still trashed. Yeah, that's exactly what it's all covered. That's awesome. So one of the questions I knew I wanted to get out was, why do you think there are so many sellers out there that still aren't doing this? Yeah,
I mean, that's a great question. I just, I'll just, I'll say first and foremost, like, it's frickin hard to run a business, right? So it's like, you know, this, I know this, right. So you're like, Okay, I just made something I'm so proud of, I love it. Now, we got to ship it. And it's like, a lot of the things around shipping feel like a little bit of an afterthought, like, you're really focused on building a great product, building a beautiful website, marketing, like getting your customers, and it's like, okay, now I just got to ship it. And it doesn't feel like the most important use of time. And so I think for the companies that we work with, where it's like, I put sustainability first, and I know my customers care deeply about the environment. And I know that the first thing that they're going to experience is the packaging. So I need that packaging to align with my values. So some, a lot of the companies we work with are in that angle. But I think, you know, a random, I'm not random, but sort of a company that hasn't made that part of their ethos, I can sort of understanding even if, when pressed, they would be like, Yeah, I care about the environment, I can understand why and like the course of a busy day of your operations like it could be the last thing you could think about. So we always say, like, we really try to make it easy. So if you find us like, I'm not going to pretend we're the cheapest option you can get, like China-made Polly mailers much cheaper than we can offer. But I think if you can if you can stomach a little bit of the cost differential like our focus is if you find our website, you just get what you need from it, and you can feel confident. So hopefully, that just makes it a little bit easier to make that decision, or we have a great customer service team that will sort of handhold you through the process if you need it. So that's where hopefully the value is that we come in or somebody is like, I don't know if I have time and energy for this, we can make it pretty easy.
It's interesting, that you mentioned that because it's kind of slightly off-topic, but it's very similar to something I was just dealing with yesterday. So we had someone we worked with where they are really worried about getting sued for like an ADA compliance issue, mainly because they're in some group and a lot of people started talking about it, apparently, there's a lot of people that are starting to get lawsuits for all this kind of stuff. And so we started looking into what needed to be done. And this guy, apparently in that group, had sent it over to us. And it was a long explanation of someone he spoke with who was basically an ADA compliance lawyer. And long story short, it kind of got down to, you know, as a business owner, you're constantly spending so much time trying to figure out what's going to work, what's not going to work. And it's always typically that decision is ROI driven. Whereas if you look at it from a value perspective, while doesn't have an ROI exactly tied to it, sometimes a lot of business owners tend to just overthink it and let it go. And they're just like, Yeah, I'll worry about that stuff later. And I feel like that's kind of a relatively similar thing. Because even though there's probably not any kind of direct ROI to offering sustainability, the packaging, or even the shipping, as I know, there are a couple of apps and stuff out there that do that with different shipping providers. But I also feel like, just from that perspective alone, that Well, I guess you could still try to be promoted and stuff like that. But at the same time, it's one of those things, like there are little tiny aspects of your business that you can tweak. And even though it's not going to provide ROI immediately down the road. I feel like it's more of future investment into obviously the planet, but also just the business in itself. For people that are, there's no one out there who's not shopping with someone because they're sustainable.
Yeah. And it's funny, and you say the ROI part because there's been a lot of like surf surveys and studies that have shown like customers more and more particularly like the next generation, every two every year, it's like the next generation cares even more about the planet. And so there's actually a lot of studies that show that if you actually make investments into sustainability as a company, and you showcase those investments on your website, and everything that you do, customers are not only more likely to, you know, different studies will show anywhere from like 60 to 80% more likely to shop with your brand. And you know, 60 to 80% more likely to stay loyal to your brand. And you also sort of recession-proof your business a little bit because you're building loyalty and a following. That isn't as easily sort of dismissed, I think, when people start pinching their pennies a little bit. So there has been a lot of research, but I think you're right. It's obviously a really different type of ROI than putting a bunch of money into paid advertising, right where, like, the ROI is so clear. But I think if I would say you can't just go into sustainable packaging and call it a day, you almost have to say like as a business do I want to think about sustainability as one of our values, and then do I want to promote actually engage in it and then promote it? And recognize that if I do that very well, there is an upside in me acquiring more customers and me retaining them, and potentially me being able to charge a little bit more because I'm adding something that is sort of value to a premium customer.
So you see, Ico and close is almost more of a, just a piece of an overall aspect that you think the business should actually pivot towards, as opposed to just going to sustainable packaging. Yeah,
yeah, I've often I think I've been quoted maybe incorrectly, but as saying, like, the packaging is a little bit of like a gateway drug into sustainability, it's pretty easy, right? Like, if you sell T-shirts, like going from a, you know, if you've source of like a $4 T-shirt, and it's made with Virgin like random cotton, that you don't know how it's sourced, and you move to like organic certified cotton, that T-shirt could like, be 3x, more expensive, it sort of changes your whole business model. But going from a virgin corrugated shipping box to a recycled shipping box is a very easy, not that much more expensive if at all. It could be exactly the same price change that is an easy switch like it doesn't really mess up your supply chain in any way. And then it starts to maybe get you and your customers engaging in a dialogue that then can incentivize you to make changes across the rest of your business model as well.
Yeah. Have you partnered with any other businesses that are like, you know, complementary, like, I know, there's a couple of apps and things out there that, you know, integrate with different shipping providers and stuff? And they, you know, the trucks take different routes for that kind of reduces the amount of gas they're using and all that stuff, then I know, there's also on the product side, like you just mentioned, like, is there any other one that you kind of point people in the direction of?
Yeah, that's a great question. I don't we haven't we don't have formal partnerships, where I do anything like that we, we have a lot of innovation partnerships. So a lot of what we do is try to like push the, you know, push the envelope, so to speak, on sustainable innovation. So, for example, I was talking about algae Inc, like a couple of years ago, we met some folks that like invented an ink where the pigment was made of algae cells, instead of, you know, fossil fuels. That's like a very cool technology at sequester is carbon. It's a beautiful, rich black pigment. That's a great way to print boxes or mailers, or whenever somebody wants to custom brand without the partnership. Now that's a formal partnership. We're like their go-to-market partner; we test every formulation, and we offer it across all of our product lines. I think that's more in the vein of the types of formal partnerships we offer. That said, we work with a bunch of folks that help us do our business better. So, you know, we work currently work with cleverly, we also have a relationship with eco cars. Those are two folks that allow a shop to sort of carbon neutralizes shipping, and we have that on our site, and we help our customers gain access to it just by sharing it. So we have a lot of like partners like that, that I would say are just service providers to us that if they do a good job and they help us run our business more sustainably, we make that available and showcase that to our community as well.
Yeah. So really, you have it this is such an interesting conversation because it's very, it's I don't know if I've ever had anyone on the show that is an E-commerce seller but sells primarily to e-commerce sellers. So I'm trying to figure out what side of this I want to take. So I'm trying to think so. Man, that totally threw me for a loop there for a second. Yeah. So well, let's Okay, so let's go back to working with your consumers, which are obviously commerce sellers as well. If they have their own warehouse first their own three PLs,s or anything like that, how is that? Is that process any different it really depends on where you're shipping it to.
That's a great question. Yeah. So you know, I said, like of the 10s of 1000s of customers we serve, the vast majority of them are like just shipping out of their own house. That's like your standard small company. As you get bigger. A lot of them are working with repeals. So we have some relationships with three peels; there's a handful of three peels out there that have like oriented their business towards trying to serve some of the larger and more progressive brands. And so we have relationships with the brands that allowed us to have relationships with their three pls as well. There are certain I'm not going to like name and I'm not going to badmouth any three pills out there but there are certain three peels, and sort of are very rigid and don't allow people to use any packaging but their packaging just for the sake of I guess efficiencies I can't imagine how hard it would be to run a three PL, so I understand the desire to make everything as efficient as possible. So I think we have run into issues sometimes where brands have come to us and been like, I really am moving my business to x three PL they're really struggling we have occasionally been able to be successful like okay, we're gonna make it as easy as possible for this three PL, and they've turned come around to us. And sometimes, we have had to part ways with the brand, but a lot of times, we've also actually moved the brand to a different three PL that has more flexibility and the desire to or the ability to work with innovative packaging. So there's a lot when you start to work with through fields we actually have a white paper on our site of like how to work with for three pls and brands that work with them and how to navigate the switch to sustainable packaging effectively.
To save because, you know, if you have your own warehouse, you know how much product you have coming in. So you know how much packaging you need; I'm assuming there's probably some kind of like subscription base that you have in place that it just sends them packaging, you know, on whatever recurring basis correct,
we actually don't, because COVID sort of ruined that, like, I think people are no longer in a position to, I mean, we had it in a really basic way. And it wasn't; I would say, as successful as I would have thought that it would be. But I think over the last two, and a half years, as you know very well, nobody can predict anything about how much they need in one direction or the other. And people are like, you know, just to think thinking about their cash differently than they ever have been before. So we just find that people would prefer instead to have, you know, sort of the way you run the rest of your business where it's like you hit an inventory threshold, and then you reorder, and we've tried to do everything we can to make the reorder process as easy as possible. But the subscription service, I think, was like not aligning with people's needs too, like, you know, the COVID Spike, and now people don't need as much packaging. So it's been a really interesting couple of years for the consistency that we may have had for the years before it. But that said, when we work with larger brands, what we do is we do something called an open PIO, where they just place their annual expected volume with us as a purchase order. And then our sales reps reach out to them every month and say, Okay, are you still on track to meet this? If so, I'll trigger the next, you know, the next manufacturing run so we can manage some sophisticated relationships, but I recognize that it is very hard to predict anything right now.
Yeah, that's interesting. You say that because I actually just spoke to, I think, it was, say, Wednesday or something I can't remember was yesterday or Monday, but I just spoke to someone who's a supply chain consultant. And he was telling me about essentially the issues right now, which I guess aligns with that so many people stocked up on inventory during COVID. And then, because of the supply chain issues, they stocked up even more because they thought the supply chain was going to continue to be an issue. And now they're all sitting on so much excess inventory that I'm best, I'm guessing you probably shipped out so many boxes, and you're like, alright, they have everything now, and they're gonna be good for a little while. Probably. Yeah,
I'm, it's like, it's a very interesting time. Exactly. You just described it perfectly. So I'm not going to reiterate it. But that's exactly what we're seeing. And I think it's causing a lot of the customers that work, you know, we're close to a lot of our customers they like are very intimate with us about the details of their business like this, they have not just done it with packaging, right? They've done it with all of their supplies. And so everybody is in a cash crunch as well. Right? So everybody's a little bit scared going into the holiday season of like, is this going to be a holiday season that gets us back to the cash position we need to be in, and then we can sort of getting to a more regular cadence of how we used to order prior to COVID. But yeah, it's been a boomerang, I guess.
One thing, I'm interested to see how you handle this hurdle is, you know, essentially, you know, every, you know, ecommerce sellers, they're counting every single penny from, you know, when the products landed to shipping costs, etc. And then obviously, lately, with gas prices, and everything, shipping has gotten insane in a lot of aspects. And I know even from an Amazon perspective and things like that, and q4, they're even increasing some of their pricing just because of the influx. do you how do you, when you, I guess, when you're doing your own marketing, when you're speaking to, you know, a potential customer something? How do you justify the value of what I'm assuming is a slightly increased cost in their packaging, as opposed to dealing with, you know, something that's not as sustainable?
Yeah, great question. It's, you know, as we've gotten bigger and have some more sway with our supply chain in our materials, we've been able to, it's not as much more expensive as one would think, you know, sometimes it's on par. Exactly. And sometimes it's five to 10% more expensive, which, when you're talking packaging, is a pretty minimal amount. Again, I think it's an easy conversation with a brand that's put their entire, rooted a lot of their brand values into sustainability. It's like, you know, customers, at the same time, where you need to be cost-conscious customers are as are more critical than ever, right of the brands that they work with, and ready to call out a brand at a moment's notice if that brand isn't living up to the values that claim that they are. So I think brands are sensitive to that. As I've been helping customers navigate this interesting and very challenging time. What I've been trying to help them do is you can reduce some of your costs or you can reduce some of the cash burdens without having to make the switch. So, for example, in the last three years, we saw a lot of customers move from plastic to paper because there has been sort of a societal backlash against plastic, which I think is really healthy that we're having this dialogue globally around plastic but a poly mailer compared to a paper mailer like, it's like a two to 10x depending on which paper mailer you decide, like change in your cost papers just more expensive, it's bigger shipping, it is harder, etc. So we do carry 100% recycled, recyclable poly mailer line, so I'm talking to some of those customers of like, is this a time where you need to go to this 100% Poly recycled poly Maler line, it still meets your values around circularity, you can promote this to your customers explain why you made this trade, but you can actually find a big cost reduction. You know, other things are like, can we give you a volume discount for six months of spend, but allow us to ship those in monthly increments, so you don't have a cash burden? So there's a lot of ways that we're sort of sitting down are working with our customers, so that they're not like knee jerk reaction is like, let me go and find the cheapest thing I can from China, but actually, let me work with you so that this can continue to be part of my business and my brand.
Or the products like I know a lot of people when they hear sustainable, sustainable stuff, they think of either it's been recycled or be it's like heavily biodegradable, and sometimes it's both. Are there any of us? I don't even know if there's going to be accurate or not. But is there any ever pushback on, like, if the package is out in the rain? Like I lived in Florida for a long time, packages were always wet. Like is Am I just am I supposed to be worried that that thing's just gonna biodegrade on my doorstep? Or, like, how is that actually work?
Yeah, it's a great question. It's a question we get all the time, and I can't even tell you. So first I'll say we have a lot of people will put like a different name, what they'll be like slapping labels on packaging. And this is green. This is eco-friendly. We have if anybody wants to truly geek out on sustainability, we have a lot of resources on our site that talk about like what sustainability truly is when it comes to packaging and the framework for how we design packaging. And for us, it's around circularity, so high levels of recycled content, the ability to be recycled back into itself as much as possible, and then a host of other things. So your question is really good when it comes to that switch from plastic to paper. So a lot of people, as I said, we're moving from Poly mailers to paper mailers, recognizing that people are more sensitive to plastic than ever, probably in the top three questions that they'll come to us, they'll still call us. And they're like, Okay, I want to move to paper. Do you have waterproof paper, and there is no waterproof paper out there that is also curbside recyclable because that's what they want? So then we're talking them through it. So we have actually, we have never, ever had, like, you know, we sell millions upon millions of paper mailers a year we have, we work with brands that are massive, that are sending so much on paper, whether ultimately is almost never the issue. In the end, the biggest issue is that plastic is sort of indestructible, and paper tears as it goes through the supply chain of like a small carrier like USPS and ups. So we start with water. And then a year after working with them, they're like, oh, it looks like I'm getting slightly more tears in this packaging that I want. Maybe it's not damaging my product, but I want something that doesn't tear as much. So then we move them to different formulations of paper. You know, I also say Amazon has moved to this paper mailer as well. That's a little bit of a cushioned paper mailer, the fact that they have shipped it, and they continue to ship with it, knowing that the weather hasn't been an issue. Like, there's enough evidence out there that paper is a perfectly wonderful way to ship ecommerce. But you got to find the strength profile that works for the particular products that you're selling.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. But it's a great. It was one of those I'm like, Well, that could be a problem. So, obviously, before we wrap up here, I do have one other question. I'm super curious about what triggered you to get into this business.
Yeah, that's great; that's a great question. I am, you know, my background is I was a management consultant for a really long time. And then, I shifted into applying like strategy lens to social and environmental justice. Like I worked at Teach For America as a strategy person there, and I started a business that was in food access. I went to business school for this as well. And so and then, like, while I was working in sustainable agriculture, like helping farms transition from sort of bad mono-crop businesses that weren't making any money to organic farms that started to thrive. My husband was like; I think I want to buy a business. And we started to work together. And we're like, let's find a business that's actually values aligned so that I can run it to like; we can run it together. And I think I mean, now looking back, it was such a no-brainer, but we found eco enclosed was so small, but the idea was like so obvious, right? It's like I care about sustainability. Sustainability is the future ecommerce is the future. This checks all of our business boxes, and it checks my values boxes, so it was just like a no-brainer.
Beautiful. super appreciative of having you on the show. Saloni, thank you so much. Yeah, thank you for that love you. Let everyone know where they can find out more about Yeah,
thanks. It was really fun. I love talking about it from that angle. It was really awesome. Yeah, so anybody can find eco and close it. Yeah, ecoenclosed.com That's our website you can find out more information about packaging sustainability orders. If you're interested in that packaging. We also offer free samples. So if you're like, I don't know, but I'd like to check it out. You can get that as well. And then feel free to get in touch with me anytime. It's just Saloni Sal oh and I at Eco enclosed.com I'd love to hear from anybody.
beautiful, sunny; thank you so much for being on the show. Obviously, everyone who tuned in, thank you as well, please make sure you do the whole fun thing of rate and review, subscribe all that on whichever podcast platform you want YouTube, or Just head over to ecommshow.com But as usual, thank you all for tuning in. We will see you next time. Thank you
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