In the last few years, sustainable business practices have evolved from a brand differentiator to a necessity in the retail industry. Accenture Strategy reported in 2018 that 62% of consumers want companies to take a stand on issues like sustainability and transparency. Here are some of the trends in retail sustainability that we think will continue to gain momentum in 2019.

  1. End-of-life product management under scrutiny


Retailers can incur significant penalties if  they don’t manage their returns and excess goods in a sustainable way. In 2018, several retailers paid millions of dollars in settlements over the ways they manage end-of-life inventory. For example, Home Depot paid $27 million in a hazardous waste and privacy settlement for the disposal of batteries and electronics, among other items. And Burberry came under fire for its practice of destroying unsold clothing in the name of brand protection.

By adopting more sustainable practices of reselling, reusing, and recycling inventory, retailers can avoid the risks of improper landfill disposal.

  1. Retailers pledge to reduce their waste

Over the past year, many retailers pledged to reduce landfill waste,  and a few took that pledge one step further by aiming for “zero waste.”

Walmart, for example, pledged to achieve zero waste in their operations in Canada, Japan, the UK, and the US by 2025. Walmart defines their zero waste initiative as set out by the Zero Waste International Alliance business recognition program, which includes diverting at least 90% of waste from landfills, incinerators, and the environment.

Waste reduction efforts help companies avoid fines as well as decrease costs associated with excess goods and materials.

  1. Embracing the circular economy

As described by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the goal of the circular economy is to keep resources in use for as long as possible and regenerate new materials and products at the end of life. Companies like Apple, Ikea, Microsoft, Walmart, and Unilever are members of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s circular innovation program, CE100.

Ikea committed to designing all products from renewable and recycled materials by 2030. By designing their growth around the circular economy, retailers can make more sustainable plans for the future.

  1. Recommerce is rising

Recommerce programs help retailers and brands decrease the environmental and financial costs associated with returns and excess goods. Eileen Fisher Renew, Patagonia’s Worn Wear, The North Face Renewed, and Nike Resku all refurbish worn items and find them new homes.

Recommerce programs are yet another way that retailers can join the circular economy and meet the expectations of socially conscious consumers.  

The common theme across all of these trends, is a need for retailers to overhaul the traditional reverse logistics process with a sophisticated, automated program to bring sustainability commitments to scale.

At Optoro, we are committed to the circular economy. We build returns technology that helps retailers route returned and excess inventory to the most appropriate channel, including secondary markets where it can be resold or donated. Our platform enables retailers to eliminate unnecessary waste and increase financial recovery on items that previously would have gone to waste.

To learn more about how you can mitigate your own environmental impact while also recovering profit, contact us to speak to a representative.