Why Brands Need to Care About Sustainability and ReCommerce

With an overwhelming 82% of shoppers calling for brands to adopt sustainable and people-centric practices, it is imperative for retailers to incorporate earth-friendly business practices into their everyday operations. In fact, the increasing consumer demand for sustainability has forced online retailers’ hands in devoting considerable thought to corporate social responsibility and eco-friendly strategies throughout their supply chains.  

This shift in consumer expectations, brought on primarily by Gen Z, has ushered in a new era of retail trends and revenue streams, including the introduction of pre-loved and refurbished product ranges, as well as the rapid growth of ‘recommerce platforms’. But what does sustainability mean for the modern retailer? And how can they take advantage of the growing emphasis on recommerce to ensure they’re engaging with consumers on the platforms they use the most? Let’s break it down. 

Why Should Retailers Care About Sustainability

Simply put, it’s the right thing to do. Consumers are purchasing 60% more garments than they were in 2000, but they’re only keeping them for half as long. Because of this, it’s estimated that the equivalent of a garbage truck of clothing is burned or dumped into a landfill every second. This underscores the negative impact  many retail and fashion brands have had on reversing course against overstuffed landfills and reducing climate impact. 

Even if the moral implications are less important to brands, the actual business impact of sustainable practices should move the needle. A 2019 study from First Insight revealed that 62% of Millennials and Gen Z prefer to shop with brands that are transparent about their sustainability practices. Additionally, a survey from Boston Consulting Group found that sustainability’s impact on the buying decisions for all consumers rose from 38% in 2019 to 53% in 2020, a trend likely to persist as younger generations continue to co-opt the buying market. 

How Does Sustainability Relate to Recommerce

Rather than viewing sustainability and recommerce as two separate initiatives, brands should recognize the rise of recommerce as one tactic in helping them reach new customers through sustainable purchasing and selling practices. In layman’s terms, ‘recommerce,’ or reverse commerce, simply refers to the reintroduction of products into the market after their initial purchase, rather than dumping them into landfills or leaving them dormant. This reintroduction creates a circular approach to retail consumption, reducing the waste that brands are introducing into our environment. Although this term has recently gained traction among retailers, the idea of recommerce is nothing new; yard sales and flea markets have been around for longer than most brands that exist today. However, the concept really took flight during the initial dot com era and into the early aughts as sites like eBay, Amazon, thredUP, and more began to pop up. In fact, the resale industry is projected to reach $64 Billion by 2024, and that’s just for fashion alone—creating a massive opportunity for brands in this space. 

While building out your own digital marketplace is certainly an option, there are easier ways to get your foot into the recommerce space. Retailers like Levi’s, The North Face, Patagonia, and REI have trade-in and resale programs that offer customers store credit for shopping in their pre-loved clothes. Madewell, for one, partners with marketplaces like thredUP to curate a well-stocked secondhand marketplace on their site that allows users to send their pre-loved clothing into the store—free of charge. 

Although there are certain drawbacks to this approach, like ensuring clothing’s legitimacy and condition, making sure the size is accurate, etc, many manufacturers are finding ways around this. Implementing QR codes on tags allows customers to scan the merchandise they’ve received and ensure it’s correct. Essentially, the pros far outweigh the cons for brands as opportunities in the recommerce space continue to expand. 


As Millennials and Gen Z continue to take up a bigger slice of the purchasing pie, sustainability and recommerce will remain critical elements of any brand’s marketing strategy.  It not only showcases their eco-consciousness, but incentivizes shoppers with reduced-cost resale items. For brands looking into how they can jump start their sustainability and recommerce efforts and create resonant marketing messaging to their target consumer base, feel free to reach out to an expert at Zeta Global today. 

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