How to Increase Sustainability While Lowering the Cost of Returns

By Laura Garrett

Many brands see returns as only a necessary cost of doing business, one that is a drain on resources and causes a hassle. However, returns are so much more than that. With the pressure to become more sustainable, more and more companies are examining their businesses to see where they can decrease their carbon footprint. And would you guess that returns are an area where you can make a major impact when hitting your sustainability goals?

But…Aren’t Sustainability Measures Going to Drive Up the Cost of Returns?

Although becoming a more sustainable company often comes at a cost, that’s not always the case. In fact, sometimes, the more sustainable solutions can often be cheaper even in the short term. For example, transporting returns by train is almost always cheaper than using trucks or planes as a means of transport–and, trains just so happen to be significantly better for the environment. And this is just one example of many.

There Are More Ways Than One To Hit Your Carbon Reduction Goals

In the race to decrease carbon footprints and hit sustainability goals in the face of internal and external stakeholder pressure, many companies simply pay to offset their carbon emissions. This is better than not taking action at all, but it is a really expensive way to manage this issue and it doesn’t solve the problem at the source. Looking into how you’re transporting returns, what you’re packaging products in, and how you’re packaging them is just the start. For example, could you be using more durable packaging that lasts longer, or is biodegradable? Could you be looking into reusable boxes or pallets? And are you utilizing consolidation to get as many items into a shipment is possible to avoid paying to transport air? These are all things to think about if you want to reduce cost and increase sustainability.

Your Customers Are Your Most Important Asset…And They Care About Sustainability

Although your customers are not the only (or probably the loudest) stakeholders when it comes to demanding more sustainable business models, your customers do care a lot about the environment and are becoming more aware that their money has a direct impact on the planet. In a survey we conducted, we found that 79% of consumers are changing their purchasing behavior based on sustainability. Plus,  research shows that consumers have a strong preference for sustainable fashion, with 67% of consumers surveyed willing to pay more for brands with leading sustainability practices, and 52% of consumers regularly opt for more expensive products because they are more sustainable. So, if sustainability isn’t already at the forefront of your strategy, it should be if you want to guarantee the long-term loyalty of your consumers. In addition to looking into how you produce your products, giving your consumers sustainable delivery and return options is one of the most visible ways to present yourself as a sustainable company.

Looking for more deep insights and useful stats?

We sat down with our Sustainability Manager, Emily McGill and our Head of Sustainability and Security, Inge Baars to discuss actionable changes brands can make to increase sustainability while lowering the total cost of ownership of the returns process. Check out the video with all the insights below! If you’re looking for more resources on this subject, download our ebook ‘How Sustainability Measures Can Decrease the Cost of Returns’.

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