Returns are a major source of environmental impact for e-commerce businesses. The transportation, processing, and disposition of returned products all contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, waste production, and other environmental harms.

However, there are a number of technical solutions that businesses can implement to reduce the environmental impact of returns. These solutions include:

  • Sustainable transportation: Businesses can use more sustainable modes of transportation to transport returned products, such as rail or ship. They can also consolidate returns into larger shipments to reduce the number of trips required.
  • Efficient processing: Businesses can use technology to automate and streamline the returns process, which can help to reduce waste and energy consumption. For example, businesses can use returns management software to track the progress of returns and to identify opportunities for consolidation and reuse.
  • Sustainable disposition: Businesses can work with vendors and other partners to develop sustainable solutions for disposing of returned products. For example, businesses can recycle or donate returned products, or they can send them to vendors for repair or refurbishment.

In addition to these technical solutions, businesses can also implement a number of policy changes to reduce the number of returns in the first place. These policy changes include:

  • Clear and concise return policies: Businesses should have clear and concise return policies that are easy for customers to understand. These policies should explain the conditions under which returns are accepted, as well as the process for returning products.
  • Investing in product quality: Businesses should invest in product quality and testing to reduce the number of defective products that are shipped to customers.
  • Providing accurate product descriptions and images: Businesses should provide accurate product descriptions and images on their websites to help customers make informed purchasing decisions.

By implementing these technical and policy changes, businesses can significantly reduce the environmental impact of returns and improve their overall sustainability performance.

How to reduce the cost of sustainable returns:

While there is an upfront investment associated with implementing sustainable returns practices, there are a number of ways to reduce the cost over time. For example, businesses can:

  • Negotiate with vendors: Businesses can negotiate with their vendors to get better pricing on sustainable packaging and transportation options.
  • Invest in reusable packaging: Businesses can invest in reusable packaging solutions, such as reusable shipping boxes and pallets. This can help to reduce the cost of packaging and shipping over time.
  • Partner with other businesses: Businesses can partner with other businesses in their industry to consolidate returns and reduce transportation costs.

How to communicate your sustainability efforts to your customers:

Once you have implemented sustainable returns practices, it is important to communicate your efforts to your customers. This can be done through a variety of channels, such as your website, social media, and email marketing.

When communicating your sustainability efforts, be sure to focus on the benefits to your customers. For example, you can highlight the fact that your customers are helping to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions by choosing your company. You can also offer your customers discounts or other incentives for returning products in a sustainable manner.

By following these tips, businesses can reduce the environmental and financial impact of returns while improving their overall sustainability performance. Want to learn more about how ARC’s unique approach can help your business, complete the contact form and we will reach out.