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The Next Economy
eBay Releases Methodology for Calculating Environmental, Financial Benefits of Recommerce

The resale giant says the information allows consumers to make meaningful decisions about what used or refurbished products to purchase, by understanding how the positive environmental impact from purchases are calculated.

After calculating the estimated environmental impact of consumer-to-consumer sales of used and refurbished goods on its platform for many years, eBay has now open-sourced its methodology for calculating avoided carbon emissions and avoided waste impacts, in partnership with third-party expert Anthesis. The company is also releasing findings from its 2021 Impact Report, detailing progress toward 2025 and 2030 goals tied to economic empowerment and sustainability.

In its 2021 Recommerce Report, eBay says a younger generation of sellers and buyers has driven increased demand for secondhand goods on its global marketplace. And while the report found that economic opportunity remains the key driver for the secondhand resale market, sustainability is increasing as a motivation – especially for younger consumers, particularly Gen Z — corroborating a growing pool of research pointing to mounting consumer preference for reducing the waste and resources associated with buying new products. Other resale platforms have also noted the influx: Secondhand apparel giant thredUP estimates the circular apparel market alone will double in the next 5 years, to reach $77 billion; vintage furnishings marketplace Chairish projects the resale furniture industry will grow 54 percent over the next five years; and the market for refurbished electronics continues to gain traction (likely, thanks to the ongoing global microchip shortage).

eBay identified a list of five categories representing the wide range of used or refurbished goods sold on its platform — Electronics, Fashion, Lifestyle, Media, Parts and Accessories — for which standardized outputs are calculated:

  • Avoided GHG emissions (kg CO2e per item)
  • Avoided landfill (kg for category and country)
  • Avoided incineration (kg for category and country)
  • Positive financial impact ($)

According to its methodology, of the five categories listed, purchasing a used or refurbished product from the Electronics, Fashion and Parts & Accessories categories has the most environmental benefit.

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“The information allows consumers to make meaningful decisions about what used or refurbished products they decide to purchase, while understanding how the positive impact from this purchase on the environment is calculated,” says eBay CSO Renee Morin. “It also serves as a model for other companies to leverage as they consider tracking their own impact, and we’re proud to offer this level of transparency.

“If we can standardize on the categories of avoided GHG, avoided landfill or incineration, and positive financial impact, people can make informed choices when they have a chance to buy pre-owned items,” she added. “It becomes a purchasing tool much like the nutrition label is for food. And, with recommerce growing faster than selling and buying new products on eBay’s marketplace, finding a way to quantify positive impacts is good for everyone.”

2021 Impact Report

eBay’s 2021 Impact report unveils the cumulative environmental and economic impact of selling and purchasing used or refurbished products on the platform. In 2020, eBay exceeded its initial circular commerce goal through the consumer-to-consumer sale of pre-owned electronics and apparel, avoiding a total of 3.1 million metric tons of carbon emissions and contributing $3.8 billion in positive economic impact from 2016-2020.

The company is now progressing toward a new goal of creating $20 billion in positive economic impacts, avoiding 7 million metric tons of carbon emissions, and avoiding 230,000 metric tons of waste through selling pre-owned and refurbished on eBay by 2025 across the five product categories. In 2021 alone, it reported the following progress:

  • Created $4 billion in positive economic impact (from buyers saving money on purchasing pre-owned and refurbished goods)

  • Avoided 1.5 million metric tons of carbon emissions

  • Avoided 47,000 metric tons of waste

Additional noteworthy 2021 progress toward eBay’s sustainability goals include:

  • Carbon emissions: eBay achieved a 26 percent absolute reduction in Scope 1 and 2 Greenhouse Gas emissions in 2021 (goal: 90 percent absolute reduction by 2030); achieved a 7 percent absolute reduction in Scope 3 downstream transportation and distribution from a 2019 baseline (goal 20 percent absolute reduction by 2030).

  • Renewable Energy: eBay sourced 90 percent of electricity supply from renewable energy sources for eBay-controlled data centers and offices in 2021 (goal: 100 percent sourced by 2025).

Meanwhile, to further decrease the waste and impacts specific to the apparel industry, eBay UK recently launched Imperfects — a marketplace for apparel brands to sell clothing, shoes and accessories with minor defects at discounted prices, to keep previously “unsellable” items out of landfill.