The Impact of Returns on the Environment

impact of return

The Impact of Returns on the Environment and Solutions

Every online business certainly wants to make the consumer return process simpler so that customers are more interested in buying. Return policies can also influence customer decisions in making purchases, but not only have an impact on purchasing decisions, these policies also have an impact on the environment. To produce and deliver a product, of course, there is a carbon footprint. Then once the product is purchased and in the hands of the consumer, what happens when the buyer changes his mind and wants to return it? And how do you prevent the impact of the return on the environment?

Impact of ECommerce Business on Environment

Even though it looks simple and does not have a physical store, online business turns out to have a big enough contribution to the environment, especially in climate change. All aspects of the business supply chain will certainly have a negative impact on the environment including when the industry produces more waste and carbon dioxide.

Consumers have become accustomed to fast, free shipping and free returns. This is what then makes consumers order and shop for products from online stores more often and more. If they don't match the item they bought, then they will be able to easily return it. With the increasing number of online shopping, the negative impact on the environment will be more real. That's why business owners must be really aware of these impacts and consider a more sustainable business.

Sustainable Business Solutions to Minimize Environmental Impact

To reduce the impact of returns on the environment due to the increasing number of online shopping and consumer returns, as a business owner you can apply the following solutions to run a sustainable business.

Changing Consumer Mindset

In addition to the development of the times and public awareness of environmental issues, the mindset of consumers is also shifting towards a sustainable business. Business, "go green" today is not just an optional trend, but significantly affects the thought processes and decisions of consumers. According to Forbes, 87% of customers will buy products that have benefits for society as well as benefits for the environment. In addition, 92% of consumers will also be more likely to trust companies that support current social and environmental issues, especially those from the millennial generation. 70% of millennials say that the environmental focus of a business influences their buying decisions.
Millennials are becoming an attractive target group for many e-commerce businesses due to their growing purchasing power. If you want to target Millennials and increase their purchasing power, make sure you raise environmental issues and implement a sustainable business to minimize the impact of returns on your business.

Production and Packaging Process

There are many practical and sustainable changes that business owners can make regarding the packaging used. If you want to be a business that cares about the environment, the first thing you can pay attention to is the packaging of your own products. There are many choices of materials that can be used for packaging, especially environmentally friendly recycled packaging. Using shopping bags and boxes made of recycled materials can also be a solution to help reduce the use of plastic packaging. You can do research with the team to get packaging that is more environmentally friendly and sustainable. In addition to considering the packaging, you also have to consider how the product is produced. You can choose the right manufacturers, suppliers, buyers and other resources to build a more sustainable business,


Returns are one aspect of e-commerce that has the potential to pollute the environment and contribute to climate change. In America alone, consumer returns generate 5 billion pounds of landfill waste and 15 million tons of carbon emissions annually; This amount is equivalent to the amount of waste produced by 5 million people in a year. One of the biggest contributing factors to returns is the issue of mismatched sizes. Either the consumer accidentally buys the wrong size, or they do shop for a product of various sizes and try to return the size that doesn't fit.

In addition to size, another problem that often causes returns is the problem of incorrect product descriptions or different photos. Both of these problems can actually be solved by improving the description, photos or information provided to consumers.
You can use return technologies such as software to process customer exchanges and returns such as ReturnKey. ReturnKey can help your business to provide better service to customers and provide you with information on why the product was returned. This information can of course be used to improve products and services in your business.

What Can You Do With Returned Items?

Sometimes you can't avoid consumer returns, including if the returned item is defective or damaged in shipping. There are a few workarounds you can use if you don't know whether or not to get rid of them.


Recycling returned products ensures that they are not simply destroyed or thrown away. Not in vain, all returned products will later be converted into new products, or will be converted into raw materials which can then be used to make other products. You can also build a sustainable business by offering recycling programs to customers. For example, you offer a 20% discount if customers bring their old goods with your brand in exchange for new goods which will then be recycled or donated to those in need.

Selling Used Items

Instead of sending used goods to landfills, you can actually take advantage of preloved sites or marketplaces that sell used goods for resale at a cheaper price or you can create a special page on your website for used goods. The same concept as the Thrift store but you will make it easier and still make a profit even if the goods are returned.

Donate Non-Resellable Items

You can also partner with a donation center or charity that is willing to accept used products returned by your customers. This can also be a good approach because in addition to paying attention to environmental issues you can also promote social awareness through your business and it is not impossible that customers will feel impressed by what your business does. Maybe the returned item is useless to you or the customer but it could be very useful to those in need. So instead of throwing it in the trash, it's a good idea to donate it to those in need.

It's up to you if you want to minimize the environmental impact of your business. The return process can indeed have a negative impact on the environment but if you are wise and adhere to the principles of sustainability, then you can make a positive contribution to society and increase customer loyalty to the business or brand that you develop. There are many ways to reduce the impact of returns on your environment while still providing a great experience for your customers. Don't forget to contact ReturnKey if you want to create a memorable and sustainable return experience for your customers.

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