The second hand market for business: an opportunity to combat climate change ?

Conseil en achat | 27 November 2020

Individual and collective awareness

 

Responding to the climate and environmental emergency, the Energy-Climate law outlines France’s key priorities, notably most notably carbon neutrality by 2050, and limiting the increase in temperature to + 1.5C by 2030.

An individual and collective awareness of the emergency today has led to, amongst other initiaitives, a general desire to consume less and buy “second-hand” products: consuming less, better, and reusing for environmental and ethical reasons.

 

A second-hand market that is taking shape

 

Large retailers (Leclerc in 2019, Auchan and Carrefour in 2020) have started to support second hand purchases, offering market places where customers can buy, sell and value video games, jewelry, computer accessories, books or even CDs or DVDs. This trend has not excluded the textile and luxury sector either, which must compete with a tidal wave of online platforms (Vinted, Vestiaire Collective), creating a pool of new customers for brands.

This trend has also been observed in professional procurement, with the emergence of new markets and new suppliers. This is known as reuse : "any operation in which substances, materials or products which are not waste are used again for a use identical to that for which they were designed"; and redeployment: “any operation in which substances, materials or products which have become waste are used again."

For example, in the office furniture market , suppliers such as Simon Bureau or tricycle office, offer second-hand offices, made up of durable and high-end materials that have been rigorously selected and checked. Other providers, such as Atelier extra muros or Furniture for good, even go so far as to create tailor-made furniture, using recovered and revalued material as well recycled waste. In addition to cost savings, such initiatives reduce air pollution, as newer pieces of furniture are far more likely to emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) than older ones (imagine our interiors and offices being10 times more polluted than a highway!), while also reducing the GHG emissions that emerge throughout a product’s life cycle and through the production of waste.

 

The rise of refurbished computer equipment

 

In the IT sector, second hand can mean the rental of already used devices or the purchase of refurbished devices. This solution has many advantages for responsible buyers: in addition to lower purchase costs (up to 60% less according to "YesYes", a provider of smartphone reconditioning), it can offer savings of up to 70% of CO² eq compared to buying a new device (source: greentrader). Being upstream in the life cycle, this leads to a reduction in the consumption of rare minerals (the exploitation of which involves numerous social and environmental risks), while on the social impact side, this approach can help promote local employment (if the reconditioning provider is located in France), and develop inclusive purchasing (if the provider employs persons who are disabled or being reintegrated into the workforce for example, or if the supplier is part of the SSE, Social Economy and Inclusiveness). Beyond such advantages, some beliefs must be challenged: refurbished does not imply more breakdowns a new product! (Feedback from the company SIDAS after three years of using reconditioned computers : www. Greenit.fr )

The market for second-hand IT suppliers is booming  with the arrival of new participants such as GreenTraders, a marketplace of refurbished IT products for companies, labelled Greentech, (a public label promoting innovative start-ups contributing to the environmental transition); YesYes, a French reconditioning provider which sells second-hand smartphones; or Commown , a Cooperative Organisation for the Collective Interest (SCIC) recognized as an SSE company offering long-term rental of computer devices. At the end of 2018, the company was labelled “e-Committed RSE” (Afnor's CSR label).

 

From consumer to consumer actor

 

In large companies, second-hand activity is showcased within company concierge services, which for example organise specific days for employees to resell or exchange products they wish to part with, or even set up a permanent internal online “marketplaces”. In addition to creating a social link between companies, such an approach leads to economic gains for employees, while promoting the circular economy.

We can see with these few examples that consumers are starting to fundamentally change their habits in favour of more responsible consumption. This can involve reuse or redeployment, leading to the extension of a product’s lifespan, however also through the development of collective procurement or collaborative consumption.

Responsible buyers must consider these changes in consumption practices by trying to minimize negative environmental, social and economic impacts, by promoting and adopting a circular economy policy, and by purchasing responsibly for the preservation of our planet.

 

Written by : Delphine Gilet, Manager of the Sustainable procurement and Damien Lyons, Consultant Sustainable Procurement