Image courtesy of Bataris/Greenpeace

Environmental groups are demanding that e-commerce giants Lazada and Shopee commit to concrete forms of environmental sustainability. This comes a day before the much anticipated 9.9 sale on both platforms. 

More than 14,000 individuals signed an online petition by Youth for Climate Philippines calling for transparency on plastic packaging waste.  

In a statement, Youth Strike for Climate Philippines, Greenpeace Philippines, and JuanBag petitioned Lazada and Shopee to reveal data on waste estimates; reduce current waste production by introducing reduction targets; and redesign current systems by exploring reusable and returnable packaging and incentives for both buyers and sellers. 

“The global e-commerce plastic packaging market will continue to expand at a projected annual growth rate of 14.2%,” said Marian Frances T. Ledesma, Greenpeace Philippines Zero Waste Campaigner, citing a 2020 study on the plastic problem by Oceana, a nonprofit ocean conservation organization.  

“That’s why it’s imperative that e-commerce platforms like Lazada and Shopee act on our calls,” she said in a press briefing Tuesday.   

Although Lazada previously organized roundtable discussions on reducing plastic waste and Shopee mounted a campaign to “shop green” by providing discounts for eco-friendly products, neither has displayed a more concrete course of action, according to Greenpeace Philippines.  

Instead of using the same packaging for all kinds of items, Ms. Ledesma recommended reusable packaging for non-fragile items that don’t need to be carefully and thickly packaged in plastic.  

One option is JuanBag, a returnable and reusable packaging provider that picks up plastic bags and other wrapping materials to be sanitized and upcycled, care of their partner weavers.  

The products are offered to online sellers as alternative packaging, which consumers can choose upon check-out then return via pick-up points for repair and reuse.   

“We want to create a culture shift through packaging,” said Rachelle Lacanlale, JuanBag’s founder. “We’re lowering the cost of packaging and increasing consumers’ engagement with environmental solutions. We’re also providing income to vulnerable communities through sanitation and repair.”  

To mitigate additional cost (which consumers have to shoulder when they choose returnable packaging), Ms. Lacanlale suggested that e-commerce platforms partner with malls, convenience stores, and logistics providers. 

According to Jefferson M. Chua, campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines, environmental sustainability can be profitable. Reports on the future of e-commerce have shown that consumers today are willing to patronize more environmentally sustainable brands. 

“If these e-commerce platforms are able to lead the way and introduce more rational approaches to packaging, we can all work together to make packaging less environmentally harmful,” he said.

On Sept. 9, Lazada responded with a statement that reads in part: We believe that everyone plays a vital role in preserving our planet and we continue to be staunchly committed in working with all of our industry partners in building a sustainable eCommerce ecosystem and in addressing the environmental impact of waste in-line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.

LazMall recently partnered with Starbucks to offer accessories and drinkware made from recycled coffee grounds. It also launched a beauty e-commerce sustainability program with the L’Oréal Group wherein customers who purchase products from Garnier, Maybelline, and L’Oréal Paris via the respective LazMall flagship stores will receive parcels that use alternative sustainable packaging materials. — Brontë H. Lacsamana