Sustainable e-commerce: focus on the warehouse

Sustainable e-commerce: focus on the warehouse

In our new blog series, we want to show you what’s possible to bring e-commerce to scale. Let’s take a closer look at the four most important stages in the fulfillment process. Let’s start with goods receipt and warehousing.

Large rooms with long aisles and shelves up to the ceiling – this is the place where books, cosmetics or toys are waiting to be shipped. And it’s also a place that offers some levers for more sustainable e-commerce. But it actually starts before the goods arrive at the warehouse. This is because manufacturers and retailers can help the logistics center to significantly reduce its waste volume in the goods receiving area by using precisely fitting outer packaging with sustainable materials. In the best case, outer packaging is precisely tailored to the goods and can be reused or recycled. In addition, the route to the warehouse also offers opportunities to improve the carbon footprint. For example, through short, well-planned delivery routes as well as environmentally friendly transport by rail, container ships powered by biofuel or liquid natural gas, or electric trucks.

What do lawmakers say.


Switzerland does not have a general packaging ordinance. However, the Federal Law on Environmental Protection contains some regulations on the prevention and disposal of waste (Art. 30-32).

European Union

For the European Union, the Waste Framework Directive has been in place since 2008, and was comprehensively expanded in 2018, among other changes. The directives on the prevention, recovery and disposal of waste were not directly binding on the Länder and had to be transposed into national law. Therefore, there may be different regulations in the individual countries of the EU.

Let there be light.

For the stored products, of course, it does not matter whether the warehouse is illuminated or not. For the employees in the shipping department, however, it is. To turn on the light only when it is really necessary, motion detectors are a smart option. LED light sources also offer great energy-saving potential in this area, as they actually consume considerably less electricity than conventional luminaires. In addition, the long service life also increases their sustainability.

Electricity from the sun - heat from the earth.

Switching to green power from renewable energy sources, as offered by numerous electricity suppliers, is an easy way to reduce one’s environmental footprint – and of course, that doesn’t just apply to storage facilities. However, MS Direct has gone one step further. Our new fulfillment site on Spühlstrasse in St. Gallen has a photovoltaic system on the roof. We also use geothermal energy there to heat the building. Both factors together have already brought us a significant reduction in our carbon footprint in the first year after moving in: Our Fulfillment Solutions business unit alone was able to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 490 metric tons in 2021 with the help of the new energy-efficient building.

Intelligence brings efficiency.

Smart warehouse management also helps increase sustainability in e-commerce. That’s why MS Direct tailors warehouse usage to meet the exact needs of its customers. This means that we do not have any minimum quantities and the areas can always be adapted to individual requirements. This efficient allocation of storage locations also saves energy. In addition, numerous manufacturers and retailers are already foregoing their own warehouses and relying on outsourcing their fulfillment to specialized companies that always take sustainability criteria into account. MS Direct is also already working on the next project in this area: At our site in Arbon on the Swiss side of Lake Constance, a robot-operated small parts warehouse is currently being built, which will be available to customers from summer 2023. This is a high-bay warehouse with totes that are delivered to the picking station as needed with the help of robots. In addition to the optimal use of space, the advantages also include the fact that little electricity is required for the robots and no light or heating is needed for the warehouse.

In our next article, we will take a closer look at the topic of packaging and present you, among other things, with some innovative ideas on how to increase sustainability in this area.

More articles from the series.