IT Sustainability Think Tank: How collaboration and partnerships enable a circular economy

IT Sustainability Think Tank: How collaboration and partnerships enable a circular economy

It takes a village to build a credible and robust IT sustainability strategy, so who should enterprise leaders be collaborating with to make their organisation’s green IT goals a reality?

Katy Medlock


Published: 03 Aug 2022

Sustainable practice has become a focus for many businesses following the international Paris Agreement in 2015. Almost all of the world’s largest companies now publish sustainability reports, and one-third of Europe’s public companies have pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Waste presents one of the greatest, and quickest, opportunities to reach those targets. As much as 40% of food grown on Earth is wasted, according to WWF. And our approach to technology is no better, with 35% of British people upgrading their phones before their previous device stopped working, according to Back Market’s recent research. The solution seems simple. Right?

That said, achieving a truly circular economy – one in which waste products are reused for new purposes – will require extensive collaboration between multiple organisations involved. And it needs to be efficient enough to remain profitable for everyone.

One of the easiest ways companies can help to advance our society towards a circular economy is by partnering with businesses working at other stages of the same supply chain – from transport, logistics, packaging and even marketing. When a business sets out to put sustainability at the heart of its purpose, there is a responsibility for this that applies at multiple touchpoints. 

Embrace the competition

These partnerships can help to reduce unnecessary friction by promoting collaboration over competition.

For example, Back Market recently partnered with re-commerce business MusicMagpie, which buys and refurbishes used technology. This partnership allows MusicMagpie to sell its tech through our own marketplace, streamling the device’s journey into the new owner’s hands and promoting sustainable practice at the same time.

The aim of partnerships like these is to drive broader awareness, tapping into multiple audiences by working with partners that share a similar view of the world.

Champion the industry

Supporting non-competitor businesses that are pursuing similar goals is a key pillar for Back Market, and we believe it will help everyone get closer to a circular economy and elevate smaller businesses that have a similar vision.

We created a programme to offer visibility to independent brands from the circular economy, which sell everything except refurbished tech. One of those partners in France is Polère, which exclusively uses second-hand materials and accessories that it gleans from flea markets, garage sales, fairs, recycling centres, thrift stores and other points of sale.

Every business has a platform. They can use this solely for their own purposes to drive sales and incremental revenue, or they can spend some time investing in the broader industry. This doesn’t mean driving people away from your own services, but helping them build a lifestyle and buying cycle that is better for the planet.

Review logistics to remain competitive

When it comes to logistics, partnerships can serve a slightly different purpose.

Last year, we started working with ShipStation API, a multi-channel order management system that enables the business to offer convenient and cost-effective shipping options. Back Market believes that shipping time and costs are a big barrier for consumers not buying refurbished, and if they can reduce this friction, more people will look to switch to “non-new”.

For many consumers, convenience remains one of the biggest drivers, particularly within e-commerce with competition such as Amazon. When driving a sustainable agenda, it is imperative that businesses remain competitive to ensure they can meet consumer demand and keep customer satisfaction high.

Our partnership with ShipStation API integration enables Back Market’s sellers to address these issues head-on, giving them more ways to meet the expectations of today’s online shoppers. With partnerships across all major selling channels, e-commerce platforms and carriers, ShipStation provides a streamlined way to optimise the shipping flow, which improves service levels and time-to-delivery metrics.

Challenge NGOs and like-minded organisations

It’s all well and good for sustainable businesses to champion these practices, but how is your brand actually making the change it wants to see in the world?

While brands can do a lot themselves, sometimes when you have a point to prove, working with authorities in this space can give your purpose added credibility, and provide you with additional tools to help consumers understand your mission.

We challenged French organisation Ademe to carry out a first-of-its-kind independent global study to reveal the true environmental impact of refurbished smartphones. The preliminary results explore four key indicators in measuring the digital footprint of refurbished tech – raw material usage, carbon dioxide emissions, water usage and e-waste – and the results are shocking.

The mission to create a truly circular economy is not a quick fix. While independent analysis and partnerships like this demonstrate the importance of a company’s mission internally and externally, they also provide evidence on areas where we can improve, and opportunities to identify new partners that can help us get there. 

Like anything in business, it is almost impossible to do everything. First, you need to accept that not every process in your business will currently support your overarching mission. Once you’ve done this, and identified the areas that need to improve, partnerships can help you reach your goals.

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