Environmental concerns for online returns

A leading Australian parcel collection point network says if Australian online shoppers return the same number of online purchases this year as they did in 2020, consideration of the environmental impact of gift returns will need to be addressed.

Hubbed data shows over 35 per cent of Australians returned online Christmas purchases in January 2020, and as online shopping continues to boom, both consumers and online retailers are becoming more aware of the importance of sustainability and the environmental and financial costs of ignoring the issue.

Online purchases were up 26.9 per cent for the 12 months to 31 July 2021 according to Inside Australian Online Shopping eCommerce update (released August 2021), and the Australian Retailers Association research shows 48 per cent of Christmas shopping is set to be done online this year.

“The environmental and financial costs of online shopping returns can be staggering,” Hubbed CEO David McLean said.

“Australian consumers should be aware that each item returned doubles its logistics carbon footprint.

“Poor returns systems can cost online retailers more than the original sale when the associated costs of shipping, returning and preparing a refunded item for sale are factored in.”

For Australian online shoppers, buying from retailers who adopt sustainable practices such as recycling, guaranteed repackaging and reselling of returns, and using parcel collection points for returns to increase courier capacity and reduce emissions can be a simple behaviour change, Mr McLean said.

“Poor refund policies and procedures make online shoppers cautious, and if returning a purchased item is just too hard or unsustainable, consumers will remember next time they’re shopping online and click elsewhere,” Mr McLean said.