An employee inspects orders in a warehouse for the fashion e-commerce store Zalora of the Global Fashion Group (GFG) in the Cibitung district of Bekasi, West Java, Indonesia on Thursday, March 10, 2016.

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With the advent of internet shopping, concerns about packaging waste are growing – but some online retailers say they won’t let sustainability take a back seat.

Singapore-based online fashion retailer Zalora says it is pushing its green commitment and trying to reduce its environmental footprint.

“We have decided that this is the best way to make commitments public because it creates a level of accountability that you cannot be afraid of. We have now made sure that all of our packaging is at least 80% recycled. ”Gunjan Soni, CEO of Zalora Group, told CNBC.

“But to get to the question of the product itself that we sell: We have started an initiative around circular fashion. Very soon people will be able to sell the product they bought themselves from Zalora again . “

The question of sustainability in a world where parcels fly around every second is a big question that both brand owners and platform owners have to ask themselves.

James Root

Senior Partner and Chairman, Bain Futures

It is of vital importance for online retailers to integrate sustainability into their business model, especially since the industry has been heavily criticized for its heavy use of plastics in packaging.

Environmental groups like Greenpeace warned that waste from China’s e-commerce sectors could more than quadruple by 2025, Reuters reported.

“The question of sustainability in a world where parcels fly around every second is a big question that brand owners and platform owners must ask,” said James Root, senior partner and chairman of Bain Futures, a global think tank for the consultancy Bain & Company.

“But from my own experience with these companies, I can say that this is high on their agenda. How to think about minimizing single use and maximizing reusability and sustainability across their business models, ”he added.

Take a sustainable path

Building a sustainable online business was a priority for Republiqe, a virtual clothing retailer that sells “100% digital” clothing, according to its website.

Its founder James Gaubert said the company aims to position itself as “the world’s first fully digital virtual fashion brand”.

“What we’re doing as a brand is essentially treating our consumers as real avatars,” said Gaubert, who is also the creative director. “A consumer comes to our website, selects one or more items of clothing, and then uploads a photo of themselves when they buy.”

From there, the digital tailoring team takes over and “matches this photo with your garment so you can post it and show it off on social media”.

“Our clothing is as sustainable as it can be. It doesn’t exist in a physical world, ”he added. “I’m asked every day Are we going to create a physical clothing line? But on a personal level it goes against our ethos. “

Leadership is important

Countries need to take the lead on issues like climate change, said Vinod Thomas, visiting professor at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

“Until recently, or even now, it was (not even) on the agenda of ASEAN leaders’ meetings,” Thomas said, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. “How could it be like you could grow and eventually cope with it when it’s too late?”

He said that having the right leadership is vital, noting that Singapore is well positioned.

Singapore launched its own Green Plan initiative in February, and part of that plan aims to encourage more businesses to embark on a sustainable path.

The government initiative is charting Singapore’s green goals for the next 10 years. These include the 2030 goal of reducing waste sent to landfill by 30% and the goal of making all newly registered cars more energy efficient by 2030.

“People are looking up to Singapore for the economic model,” said Thomas, former vice president of the World Bank. “Singapore has a lot at stake. Southeast Asia certainly has a very high interest in solving the problem, but is also one of the biggest contributors to the problem.”

“Leadership needs to be provided so that others will follow,” he added.