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Shoppers want sustainable returns, but prioritise convenience

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Online returns Credits: Liza Summer via Pexels

Consumers are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of their shopping habits and are willing to pay extra for eco-friendly options, according to a survey by returns specialist ReBound. The study found that 73 percent of shoppers are prepared to incur extra costs for environmentally responsible returns.

While 76 percent of respondents intend to shop more with retailers offering green products and services, and 74 percent would use a postal service to donate unwanted clothing if provided by a retailer, most would prioritize time delays over financial costs when it comes to returns. However, only 13 percent would pay 3 euros or more for sustainable returns.

According to the findings, 76 percent of consumers express their intent to shop more frequently with retailers that offer environmentally friendly products and services. Nevertheless, even as the number of consumers willing to pay for sustainable returns has increased (up from 47 percent in the previous year), the majority of shoppers (67 percent) would prioritize time delays over financial costs. This reflects the challenging economic circumstances faced by many individuals. In this context, 41 percent would opt for a delay in the pick-up process, while 26 percent would choose to wait for a refund. When it comes to the cost, only 13 percent of shoppers are amenable to paying 3 euros or more for sustainable returns.

Shoppers prefer time delays over expensive return costs

For retailers, there exists a delicate balance between adopting green practices and meeting business requirements. While most retailers (59 percent) express their willingness to slow down the return parcel process to achieve more sustainable outcomes, only 17 percent are open to waiting for a week to receive products back in their warehouses. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of retailers interviewed do not include returns emissions in their environmental reporting. Given that returns rates in some product categories reach as high as 70 percent, this oversight underscores the significance of addressing emissions in returns processes as consumer interest in sustainability continues to rise.

Emily McGill, the Sustainability Communications Manager at ReBound, commented on the findings, emphasizing the growing importance of sustainability for consumers. She noted that achieving eco-friendly solutions might entail additional costs and urged retailers to prioritize convenience while advancing their green strategies. Retailers that invest in and promote sustainability initiatives are expected to gain a competitive edge in the evolving retail landscape.