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Etsy Sustainability Survey Bears Fruit with New Product Attributes

Etsy Sustainability Survey Bears Fruit with New Product Attributes

Three months ago, Etsy surveyed sellers about ways it could highlight the sustainability of their products. It asked how likely sellers would be to identify their products using nine sustainability terms:

  • Recycled content (i.e. metal, paper, polyester, nylon)
  • Reusable
  • Plastic free
  • Organic ingredients
  • Upcycled
  • Vegan
  • FSC-certified wood
  • Leaping Bunny certified
  • Organic cotton

On Monday, Etsy announced new optional listing attributes that would allow sellers to indicate if their items were made from environmentally conscious materials or were designed to be reusable to reduce waste.

Etsy said once sellers had populated their listings with the attributes, it would begin exploring ways to help buyers find sustainable items through shopping experiences. In a FAQs section on its Seller Handbook, Etsy explained:

“During this initial phase of introducing sustainability attributes as options for your relevant listings, adding them will not affect their search ranking. We need your help first to build up inventory on Etsy that has these attributes. Then, we’ll be able to work on creating and building new meaningful shopping experiences for buyers, and these attributes could power future search experiences—such as more relevant search results, search filters, and more. Our ultimate goal is to get the right items in front of buyers who are looking for more eco-conscious options.”

The June survey offered some clues as to how Etsy might use the attributes to surface listings to shoppers, asking sellers where they would like sustainability designations to appear among the following options:

  • As an Editor’s Pick, or other curated marketing space
  • As a filter they can apply when browsing
  • In my shop
  • As a shoppable category from the homepage
  • In the item listing
  • As a badge on item thumbnails in search
  • At checkout
  • In Google ads
  • Other

Some sellers expressed skepticism at the time about Etsy’s ability to police sellers’ claims, with one writing, “Etsy has allowed sellers to designate a listed item as ”recycled” for years now. Almost all items I’ve seen designated as ”recycled” are factory fresh Asian imports made from new materials.” Another seller wrote, “They have no way to validate such guidelines.”

In its FAQs this week, Etsy answered the question, “How will Etsy ensure sustainability attributes are accurate?” by writing the following:

“We’re relying on sellers to certify their items are accurately described and as listed. We encourage you to keep a record of your sustainable sourcing processes and use the item description to share any details about existing certifications your materials may have. We’ll be reviewing sustainability attributes and working with you to make sure they’re in line with our guidelines. We may ask you to share documentation to verify an item’s sustainability claims, which may include receipts from buying more sustainable materials, or official sustainability certifications.”

It also added, “We’ll be monitoring usage of these sustainability attributes to help ensure they are accurate, and sellers may be asked to produce documentation to verify the validity of an item’s sustainability claims. Documentation may include receipts from buying more sustainable materials, or official sustainability certifications. As a reminder, adding these sustainability attributes currently will not affect buyer experiences, although we’re working on building new shopping experiences in the future!”

Etsy said for the initial launch, sustainability attributes will be available for four categories: Accessories, Clothing, Home & Living, and Jewelry.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.