The Future of Carbon-Neutral Commerce with EcoCart’s Peter Twomey

November 1, 2021
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4
min read

Eco-responsibility has quickly become a baseline for consumers and brands alike. At the forefront of this trend sits EcoCart, a commerce platform that helps consumers and merchants offset environmental externalities by opting for a carbon neutral checkout. Co-founder Peter Twomey unpacks his strategy to align mission and metrics while scaling the platform.

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The Future of Carbon-Neutral Commerce with EcoCart’s Peter Twomey

Peter Twomey is the co-founder of EcoCart, an eCommerce plugin that helps consumers and merchants offset environmental externalities by opting for a carbon neutral checkout.


We sat down with Peter to learn about his strategy to align mission and metrics, on-platform phased integration cycles, and today’s generation of eco-conscious customers.

Social Pressure & Behavioral Trends

EcoCart works with over 10K brands to offset the environmental costs of a customer’s order. 


While the pair of sneakers you ordered might emit 75 pounds of CO2 to get to your doorstep, by paying an extra 50 cents through EcoCart at checkout, you can plant a tree that’ll neutralize the carbon emissions of your purchase. EcoCart works with online merchants across the board, but four industries have the most to gain from their solution: 


  1. Fashion
  2. Food & bev
  3. Personal care
  4. Health & wellness 


The end consumers in each of these verticals often view corporations as highly wasteful, primarily due to plastic use or unethical manufacturing. Industries, in turn, are responding. 


In recent years, personal care and health & wellness verticals in particular have gotten pushback from customers who want more sustainable, ethical options. The big players across both of these industries like Sephora and Ulta have responded with new practices, including EcoCart. 


The same goes for fashion consumers, who are motivated to shop sustainably and ethically after seeing viral videos of landfills with discarded clothing or child labor in apparel factories. 


These cultural trends combined yield social pressure for brands to address the problem by engaging with customers more openly. That can mean a company telling the story of their environmental impact, or presenting the consumer with alternative options as they’re shopping.

“Commerce trickles down to how the end consumer is feeling emotionally about these industries. As it stands, shoppers view them all as wasteful.”

EcoCart’s Platform: Phased Integration

To maximize both environmental impact and economic KPIs for merchants, Peter recommends incorporating sustainability messaging throughout the end-to-end customer experience.  


As a shopper, it’s a green flag to see a live impact counter of a brand’s environmental footprint on their homepage (e.g. “We’ve offset one million pounds of CO2 and planted 100,000 trees”). Studies show that when most new buyers (about 67% of millennials today) are unfamiliar with a brand, seeing that the company is eco-friendly will convince them to give it a try.


At checkout, where EcoCart comes in, customers can pay a bit extra to make their order carbon neutral. In Peter’s words, customers think going carbon neutral sounds great in theory, but they have no idea what that really means in practice. As a result, being transparent and open about impact scores is key. To learn more, customers can click to read about how the carbon footprint of their unique order is calculated based on shipping distance, package weight, and more. 


EcoCart then provides more digestible metrics to understand a customer’s carbon offset. For example, the average customer might not understand what 100 pounds of carbon emissions look like, but they’re familiar with the equal value of driving 120 miles in a car. Offset projects include planting trees, building wind farms, and enabling sustainable agriculture; each initiative works to reduce or remove carbon from the atmosphere while providing elements of social good. 


Critically, this information is strategically layered into the customer journey in phases to not obstruct the checkout process in any way. When executed correctly, merchants can help their customers feel educated and engaged through tangible, customized experiences at scale. 

“We're incorporating multiple layers of transparency so that the customer feels extremely engaged while retaining a highly personalized experience.”

Mission & Metrics: The Perfect Alignment

EcoCart drives growth for its brand partners across three core metrics:


  1. Cart conversion
  2. Repurchase rate
  3. Average order value


For example, as it relates to repurchase rate, over 20% more shoppers who go through checkout using EcoCart end up returning to that same merchant using the EcoCart option again. 


In addition to the short-term quantitative ROI of using EcoCart, there are a range of intangible benefits associated with better engaging with customers and creating a mission-focused brand around eco-consciousness. Instead of burying info about environmental initiatives or charitable donations on an impact page somewhere, environmental impact is brought front and center.


During the early days of EcoCart, the team never expected to be able to drive alignment between mission impact and metrics impact. To put it bluntly, Peter never expected the platform to drive such obvious KPI improvement for partner brands. In his words, they initially believed EcoCart’s value would primarily lie in its ability to drive brand-building and engagement.

“Up until earlier this year, we genuinely didn’t expect to see metric growth across cart conversion, repurchase rate, and AOV. That was a surprise.”

Eco-Responsibility as a Baseline

When asked how EcoCart and other environmental ventures help brands stand out, Peter responded that, to the modern consumer, being proactive about your company’s carbon footprint is more of a baseline requirement than a differentiating factor. 


To stand out, he recommends meeting new customers where they are. Because consumers are more skeptical of brands’ public personas, they’re much more likely to do their research and hold companies accountable for their carbon impact. That’s where EcoCart meets them.


EcoCart’s ethos of transparency around how they calculate carbon footprints and where the money is going are clear paths to provide shoppers with a sense of security and build trust.

Without this transparency, Peter warns that brands can quickly be accused of greenwashing, or the practice of using eco language to trick shoppers without making a real difference.

“As an emerging brand, you need in-depth transparency around what you're doing to be carbon neutral. Otherwise, you’ll get called out. It’s that simple.”

Raising Capital: Playing The Long Game

In the process of raising its $3 million seed round, Peter pointed out that EcoCart wanted a lead investor who would understand the eCommerce landscape, align well with their mission through a climate-driven perspective, and prioritize making a long-term impact on the planet.


Since the intersection of climate tech and eCom is a hot space, Peter noted that they did turn down larger checks so they could stay true to the strategic and social alignments they were searching for. They wound up landing Base10 as their lead, along with about 40+ individual investors who met EcoCart’s criteria, like BarkBox’s Carly Strife and Popsugar’s Brian Sugar.

“Having the right people around the table is everything. It was crucial to ensure that investors were aligned with our mission and strategic goals.”


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