Environmental Impact of Amazon Customer Returns and Competitive Sustainability Ways
Regardless of your political beliefs – whether you believe in global warming or not – I think it’s safe to assume we all can agree that our global ecosystem is suffering due to all our wasteful and harmful practices, including the rapid growth of online customer returns. Without proper interventions and action plans, it is eerie to think about what the planet holds for future generations; if there will even BE a planet for them to carry our names and legacies. Because of this, it’s crucial to think about sustainability, especially from a long-term environmental perspective.
Sustainability is shifting our current tactics and behaviors to meet the current needs of our ecosystem without compromising future generations. When thinking about sustainability in business, you have to consider the balance between economic, environmental, and human factors. Every part has a role to play, and we’re at a critical tipping point to find optimal practices to preserve what is left of our environment without compromising profits.
One contributor to excess carbon emissions often never considered is the rapid growth in online Customer Returns. Customers returns inventory or unsold products stay in ecommerce warehouses and storage units only to be destroyed or disposed of, adding to the millions of incinerated trash worldwide. In addition to the extra transportation, boxing and reboxing costs associated with the customer returned product.
But how exactly do consumer returns affect Mother Earth?
How Customer Returns Hurt the Environment
Though it may not come as too much of a shock, ecommerce is one of the contributors to carbon footprints in the atmosphere. According to an article by Forbes, 17 billion returned ecommerce items emit approximately 4.7 million metric tons of CO2 annually. To put this into perspective, the average car emits 4.7 metric tons of carbon each year. And while we’re not suggesting you stop returning damaged or undesirable products (nor should you stop driving a car), it’s important to consider what exactly is contributing to our environmental profile.
Companies like Amazon dispose of hundreds of thousands of unsold or returned items weekly. Such products could have been donated or repurposed instead of ending up in a landfill, but it’s more expensive for these companies to sort through the goods or get more extensive storage space instead of just ridding themselves of the “headache.”
How do carbon emissions from customer returns impact the environment?
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, carbon dioxide comprises 80% of the greenhouse gases in the US. Greenhouse gases like nitrous oxide (N2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and fluorinated gases like halon, chlorofluorocarbons, and hydrochlorofluorocarbons, stay trapped in the atmosphere for different durations – from a couple of years to thousands of years. All of these gases accumulate which means that they are in similar quantities regardless of which part of the world you’re measuring these metrics.
Therefore, all countries and industries must do their part in reducing emissions and alleviate the trace amounts found in the atmosphere.
According to research conducted by NASA, carbon dioxide can both help and harm crops. The agency explained high carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere improves the photosynthesis rate that spurs growth and reduces the water transpiration rate. Plants transpire through tiny pores on the leaves known as stomata, which collect CO2 for photosynthesis, releasing water vapor. The pores don’t open as wide when the CO2 concentrations are high, which results in lower transpiration rates.
While carbon dioxide is beneficial to plants as that is how they “breathe”, too much will eventually inhibit their natural intake. In effect, some of the greenhouse gases thicken the Earth’s blanket and make the planet more heated. Theoretically, companies should aim to lessen carbon emissions in the atmosphere.
However, ecologically-sound solutions are often more expensive due to extra steps and measures in securing environmental safety. Ecommerce warehouses will spend more money and man hours to keep or sort through the unsold or returned goods instead of simply disposing of them through landfills or incineration plants.
So, what can we do as consumers and sellers to help resolve this and still retain profits?
Company Efforts To Support Environmental Sustainability
2021 is the perfect year to heal the Earth and develop responsible buyer mindsets. The good news is that a lot of companies are already on target to do their part for Mother Nature. Examples of such measures are eyeing carbon capture, producing ecologically-friendly products, rethinking packaging, and finding alternative manufacturing processes. Elon Musk is currently offering a hundred million dollars prize to any inventor or startup that creates a carbon capture technology to solve carbon emission problems.
You may be wondering: What does all this have to do with me or the ecommerce industry in general?
Most industries are supporting green practices worldwide, and ecommerce buyers or sellers have the unique opportunity to help reduce carbon emissions by recycling or upcycling unsold products. These items can be resold and repurposed to something valuable, beneficial, and profitable instead of ending up in a landfill.
Take Back-Track for example – a rapidly growing Ecommerce company whose unique business model is taking defective or customer returned products from sellers, refurbishing said products, and then helping sellers resell their products for a discount (as opposed to having Amazon resell them or throw them away). It’s a win-win because it means sellers still are able to salvage profits AND it helps reduce the unnecessary waste of discarding perfectly usable products.
Competitive Advantage of Sustainability Practices
Many manufacturers stay away from sustainable practices due to increased expenses or lesser profits. Some companies would rather pay environmental fines or charges, carbon taxes, or suffer other consequences instead of reformulating or changing how they operate their businesses. While it is undoubtedly expensive to restructure one’s company policies to adhere to better environmental practices, there are competitive advantages to pursuing eco-sustainability and you as either a seller can help promote such advantages.
1. Lessen environmental deterioration
Sustainability helps businesses save the environment from decay and improve the chances of future generations. You keep goods from ending up in landfills or junk shops, where they will diminish or eventually add to the carbon footprints. Aside from carbon emissions, some of the excess chemical wastes might find themselves in water systems.
Back-Track helps delay environmental degradation by recycling old and returned products.
2. Ethical choice
Competitive sustainability is the ethical and responsible choice. When you turn over customer returns, it’s lost forever. Repurposing allows you to make money instead of throwing those items away, and you have the chance to improve your store performance in the process.
Back-Track enables sellers to make the best moral decision by allowing them to cut back on waste AND profit from old or unused products.
3. Creative business approach
Back-tracks creative ecommerce approach allows sellers to maximize their returns on broken, unwanted, or surplus products. The Back-Track solution is an artistic and profitable enterprise strategy without compromising quality.
4. A Competitive Edge
With the global interest in preserving what’s left of Mother Nature, there is certainly a shift in how many of us practice eco hygiene from a grass-roots movement. More and more people are making conscious decisions to support companies and businesses that support the Earth. As a seller, you can maximize on this movement by establishing yourself as an advocate for eco-friendly practices.
Back-Track can help you make good on your promise to do what you can to eliminate unnecessary waste.
The ecommerce industry is guilty of creating an exorbitant (and unnecessary) amount of waste every year, and it’s an ethical responsibility to help remedy the growing carbon footprint in the atmosphere. Back-Track helps sellers find a sustainable and ecologically sound resolution to an ever-increasing ecommerce industry problem. The company brings profit while promoting healthy, environmental business practices.
Learn more about their business model here.