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Who pays the price for your 'free return'?

"Free returns" is written in big letters on all online shops these days. 2 simple words that retailers use to attract customers and also to sell their clothes like hot cakes. Unfortunately, in the retail world it is different than at the baker's, and many of these free returns, also come back. How free is such a return really and who pays the price? 

Unfortunately, the biggest penalty put on the fashion industry is paid by none other than Mother Nature. When people think of sustainability in the fashion industry, they mainly think of organic fabrics without chemicals, paper packaging and labels. This is looked at because it is tangible to the consumer and can play a big role in whether or not a customer completes a purchase. What also plays a big role is the possibility of free shipping and free returns, should the customer not be satisfied with his or her purchase. What many people don't know is that the climate is affected at 2 stages when it comes to a free return: Logistics and deliberate returns. 

Let's break these two stages down

1) Logistics

You don't notice until you pay attention how many vans and trucks full of returned clothing drive down the runway. All because the consumer is not satisfied with her or his orders.

Couriers from postal companies also predominantly use heavily polluting vehicles to deliver the orders, because the first consideration is the capacity that the vans can carry. In a study by Edwards, McKinnon and Cullinane in 2009 it was shown that a courier with only one item emits 180gr of CO2, when an item is returned. Unfortunately, not all orders and returns are delivered successfully, so this figure can rise up to 203gr of CO2 emissions. 

2) Deliberate return

It has become normal today for people to order something online with the intention of returning it. People buy something to see what it looks like in real life, how it would look on them, or to wear it just once for a party and send it back.

Sadly, this also means that CO2 emissions are doubled, and the returned item can no longer be sold. In addition, this leads to overproduction, as the manufacturer has to make more items than are actually sold. For every item that has to be produced, unnecessary carbon dioxide will also be emitted. In a blog a few weeks ago, we already gave a few examples of companies that help combat this problem. Read it here! 

The end of May is in sight, which also means that we will be wrapping up the subject of returns. In the blogs of the past few weeks, we have shared how returns occur, how to prevent them by integrating various resources, and what actually happens to returns. This is a problem that has been going on for decades and it is the fashion industry who has the upper hand.

To make the change we want to see, we must unite together. 



Ryder Ecommerce

The Atlantic

Vogue Business