When the Reverse Logistics & Sustainability Council (RLSC) was formed some five years ago, it sounded an important new note for the reverse logistics industry – namely, sustainability. Now core to nearly every conversation, sustainability in its many dimensions, is rapidly becoming an informing principle for many a corporate strategy. And the simple truth is that reverse logistics is an extraordinarily capable partner in this adventure.
Sustainability has taken the spotlight as organizations recognize the multi-dimensional risk associated with a changing climate, the rapid depletion of natural resources in a world of seven and a half billion people, and increasing demand for corporate social responsibility and transparency. But it’s not all about the risk. More and more evidence points to the fact that the more sustainable companies are the more profitable. According to McKinsey, “The value at stake from sustainability issues can be as high as 25 to 70 percent of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.”
Reverse logistics can be a major contributor to both sustainability and profitability. For example, as products are returned, what happens to them has implications for both profitability and sustainability. Trashing them, for instance, rarely contributes to the financial bottom line, and, as sustainability seeks to eliminate waste, trashing them is no win for the environment. And in the case of electronics, trashing them can actually do harm. According to the UN University e-Waste monitor, only about 15% of the electronic waste generated in the U.S. in 2012 was actually collected for recycling. Chances are that some of that “not collected” could be if we are more diligent on the reverse side.
Alternatively, finding ways to repair, refurbish and resell electronics is a win on both sides of the equation. The hallmarks of good reverse logistics – better returns management, better warranty service, better spare parts management – all tend to yield better sustainability outcomes extending product life and minimizing waste. And applying sustainability goals to reverse logistics can translate to more efficient transportation, more sustainable packaging and waste reduction in general. Together, reverse logistics and sustainability make powerful allies.
This year’s Reverse Logistics & Sustainability Council Education Conference runs March 6th – 8th in Rockwall, Texas, just outside Dallas. On Tuesday morning, I’ll be hoisting the sustainability flag and expanding on this theme, reminding folks of reverse logistics’ role in the circular economy, and talking about how today’s current events figure into these topics. I’m excited to see RLSC conference veterans like Dr. Dale Rogers of Arizona State University and meet new conference-goers as well. If you can join us, please send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can be sure to connect.
Carol Baroudi works for Arrow promoting sustainability awareness and action. She is the lead author of Green IT For Dummies. Her particular focus is on electronics in the circular economy, with an emphasis on the IT asset disposition stage, e-waste and everything connected. Follow her on Twitter at @carol_baroudi and connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/carolbaroudi.