The Role of Reverse Logistics in Sustainable Practices

Ecommerce, Retail, Returns Management, Sustainability
The Role of Reverse Logistics in Sustainable Practices

Hurray, it’s another Earth Day. While it is an opportunity to celebrate our wonderful planet, it is also an opportunity as a business to explore what we have done so far to preserve the planet. And how we can improve on those going forward as present and future generations rely on it. One of the key strategies to implement sustainable practices in the commerce ecosystem is to invest in reverse logistics management.

There is no doubt that over the years, there have been countless sustainability initiatives. However, one has consistently flown lowkey. That is reverse logistics. In celebration of Earth Day, today’s article will explore the role of logistics in environmental sustainability practices.

Up until fairly recently, the idea of ‘preserving’ the environment was not an idea that was seriously entertained, be it businesses or the larger consumer base. That is no longer the case today. Instead, consumers, the government, and companies are pushing for and adapting practices that ensure the planet continues well beyond our time on it. 

Infographic Sustainability

Supply chain operations are one of the major contributors to waste and greenhouse gas emissions. To put that into perspective, 50% of emissions result from eight major global supply chains. As you can imagine, that is a relatively poor ‘sustainable development,’ which is terrible for the environment. But there is a way out.

Reverse logistics champions environmental and economic sustainability in more ways than meets the eye, but for some reason, it has gone unnoticed to a great degree. Today, we shine a light on it.

The Role of Reverse Logistics in Sustainable Practices

Reverse logistics strategy plays a significant role in sustainability. It is a returns management operation that promotes sustainable practices by minimizing waste, boosting recycling efforts, and extending the lifespan of a product. 

Here is how it positively impacts sustainability practices.

Reduce Waste

Consumer products top $3 trillion in waste every year. A typical returns management process encompasses the logistics of receiving goods back into the supply chain. These goods would ordinarily be disposed of, accumulating waste in the environment. However, you now have many of these goods that could damage the environment being reabsorbed and reused. That goes a long way to reduce waste.

The return process facilitates the reabsorption of unwanted or end-of-life goods into the supply chain. It can also facilitate the responsible disposition of these products.

These are instrumental in reducing the environmental impact of overflowing landfills, but they also help to conserve precious natural resources that would otherwise be used to manufacture new products.

Enhanced Recycling

Some materials, especially end-of-life products, could be stripped for parts and reused in the supply chain. Typical examples are electronic devices, batteries, or some plastic packaging. Rather than leaving it in the hands of consumers, which will often lead to improper disposal, reverse logistics has emerged as a cheap and efficient medium by which supply chains can acquire those materials.

These materials can then be efficiently recycled and reintroduced into manufacturing, minimizing our reliance on virgin resources.

It is a win-win situation for everyone involved. The consumers get compensation for parting ways with the items, the manufacturer can save money on purchasing raw materials, and the environment can take a break from being hammered daily with waste or being pursued for raw materials.

Extended Product Life

The nature of consumerism is such that when a product is deemed useless, it is discarded. However, some of these products are not entirely useless in many cases. Some still have quite a lifespan; it only depends on how these products are reused or repaired.

There are certain products that, with proper maintenance and repair, can extend their life span significantly. And this could impact their environmental impact. For example, extending a phone’s life span by one can reduce its environmental impact by 40%. Again, this is where reverse logistics plays a critical role. 

Sometimes, businesses and supply chains know that customers are not interested in extending the life span of such products. With reverse logistics, these businesses and supply chains can take it off their hands.

Reverse logistics enables the collection of used but functional products, which can then be refurbished and resold, reducing the need for new production cycles and their associated environmental costs.

How ReverseLogix Has Enabled Clients To Implement Sustainable Reverse Logistics Practices

Consider D-Briggs, an omnichannel store with many customers across the country. The company recently had an issue with its reverse logistics process because it could not ensure that the returned goods were properly disposed of and absorbed into the supply chain to be reused.

D-Briggs takes its environmental responsibility seriously, but it was having issues reflecting the same across its supply chain. The returned goods from the customers were not properly sorted out, and the acquisition of worn or used goods was met with many hiccups. At some point, the company had thought about shutting the operations down. However, knowing that its consumers, regulatory bodies, and even international bodies like the United Nations take sustainability seriously was an excellent deterrent.

However, the challenge was a pain for the company until it came across ReverseLogix.

They decided to try out the Reverselogix platform as a last resort. After all, every other attempt until that point ended up a damp squib. D-Brigg’s partnership with ReverseLogix was where their fortunes began turning around for good.

To start with, Reverselogix helped D-Briggs optimize its product return process. This made it so much easier to sort between goods that will be disposed of, recycled, or repaired. Streamlined sustainability was back on the table for D-Briggs. The company went ahead to help its customers ensure that the other items they had, which could handed over to D-Briggs, were done so.

Trends in The Reverse Logistics Industry That Could Enhance Sustainability

The future is bright for retail supply chains and sustainability. And several trends promise to help enhance the concept for businesses and supply chains. Here are some of the trends that will stand out in reverse logistics operations:

The Rise of E-commerce Returns

E-commerce is one of the prevalent industries leveraging the returns management system. This is because customers often purchase items without a physical view of them. It could skew reality. So when the product gets to them, they might change their heart. However, though it could be because the product doesn’t match, it could also result from a mistake from the seller.

Advancements in reverse logistics solutions will come in handy to manage these returns. It could be anywhere from tailored shipping solutions to streamlined processing centers that will be vital in managing the sustainability challenges for these e-commerce businesses.

Technological Innovation

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are all the rage today. They can be adopted in reverse logistics processes to optimize product sorting, streamline repair processes, and improve material recovery rates for recycling as more businesses pursue sustainability.

By doing this efficiently, these technology solutions will play a key role in reintroducing the environmental benefits of reverse logistics programs.

Focus on the Circular Economy

The concept of a circular economy is gaining much traction, especially with the younger generation. The concept is an economic development where resources are used for as long as possible. More importantly, it is gaining a lot of traction. This approach emphasizes designing products with reusability and recyclability in mind, further solidifying reverse logistics’s role in closing the resource consumption loop.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What is reverse logistics?

Reverse logistics is the typical supply chain done in reverse. It is the process of reacquiring goods from consumers and returning them to the supply chain. Typically, there are various points or methods of these reabsorptions. It could be in-store, last-mile delivery, or through mail.

Q2: What are some common examples of reverse logistics?

There are several reasons that kickstart the return process or the reverse logistics process. Some of them are returning unwanted clothes, returning used electronics for refurbishment, and returning damaged goods for repair.

Q3: What can supply chains do to be more sustainable or improve their environmental footprint through reverse logistics?

Supply chains can be more sustainable in reverse logistics by tailoring the process to their products. This way, they can enhance the process by staying informed about upcoming trends like those mentioned above.

Q4: What are some challenges associated with reverse logistics?

There are a few of them, such as the complexity of managing different return modes, ensuring efficient transportation processes, and enabling visibility for customers and the business involved in the reverse supply chain operation.