Circularity in Tech: Making Refurbished Electronics the First Choice for Consumers
Welcome back to my newsletter on Social Innovation, this issue focused on circular economy in the technology sector.
The circular economy is an increasingly talked about idea in industries from fashion to autos, but examples of high impact circular solutions are still hard to find. One exception in electronics and devices is Back Market, a global marketplace that since 2014 has given consumers access to high-quality, professionally refurbished electronics – everything from iPhones to laptops to appliances. Upon securing over $500 million in funding last year, Back Market is now one of the most valuable star-ups in France.
Back Market CEO and Co-Founder, Thibaud Hug de Larauze talked to me about Back Market’s focus on refurbished device contributes to reducing e-waste and increasing access to technology. He told me that Back Market aims to provide consumers with a more sustainable way of buying technology – one that values the rebirth of technology and a longer device lifespan.
Below are some key points from our conversation, featured in my recent Forbes article:
To help change perceptions of rehabbed electronics, Back Market has launched a successful consumer education campaign. Hug de Larauze says, “Over the last year, we have really focused on educating consumers on how impactful their purchase can truly be when they choose refurbished devices and appliances–not only on their own personal finances, but the environment as well–all while still having a quality product experience.”
Hug de Larauze believes refurbished devices is way to meet the goal of sustainable development without scarifying quality of life or productivity. “We know that demand for devices isn’t going anywhere – from the technological requirements needed for education, job opportunities, social mobility, and more – so reaching this goal proves that there is an affordable option that makes the best use of existing resources.”, Hug de Larauze explains.
Back Market aims to avoid 1 million tons of CO2 emissions in long term. Hug de Larauz explains 1 million tons is equivalent to CO2 (1) 41,788,550 pairs of jeans, or (2) 52,631,579 pairs of sneakers, or (3)1,666,666,667 liters of coffee, or (4) 28,328,612 kg of steak (or 2 million vegetarian meals). The calculations are from ADEME (French Agency for environment), which recently conducted the first global life cycle assessment on refurbished tech devices.
When asked about the decision to certify as a B Corps, Hug de Larauze says “I believe that a company can only last over time if its purpose is as strong as its profits, so this certification solidifies our performance across our community, culture and environmental impact. For us, B Corp is a recognition of the ongoing commitment we’re making to build a sustainable business that still upholds the high standards of our consumers.”
Hug de Larauze adds joining B corps does not change much of their business model “We’ve simply raised our standards and codified practices that we have been carrying out for a long time like sustainable purchasing policy and carbon trajectory.” He says.
Hug de Larauze also talks about future goals of the company “We’ll continue to dedicate a majority of our work toward diversifying and innovating our offerings for both sellers and consumers. There’s even more opportunity across the category to refine and create a frictionless experience from end-to-end–it’s the beauty of our marketplace.” He further adds, “Our main ambition is to offer a buyback or recycling solution for all products regardless of their value.”
Ultimately, for any circular solution to work, businesses need to engage with consumers and earn their support. The success of Back Market shows how tech industry can embrace circularity while continuing to provide consumers with quality products.
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