“We want to make sure that when we are supporting our sellers, which we do across all verticals, that we’re able to speak to the benefits of resale. The strategy we’re going to embark upon has really been developed in reaction to this survey. I mean we needed a reboot, right? Twenty-five years is a long time, and we wanted to make sure we’re being as responsive to the sentiments of our sellers — and our buyers — as we can be,” said Renee Morin, eBay’s chief sustainability officer.
The company has been tracking the positive economic and environmental benefits, specific to fashion and electronics for over five years, but its inaugural re-commerce report released Tuesday captures findings in wider scope, surveying 4,330 peer-to-peer sellers in the U.S., U.K., Germany and France.
The economic fallout from the coronavirus is twofold for the eBay community, fueling a flywheel effect for its 185 million active buyers and 19 million active sellers. Almost three-quarters of eBay sellers turned to selling pre-owned goods last year as an extra income stream. While in the last 12 months, the majority of U.S.-based sellers said they also bought pre-owned goods (on average every three months).
Most of those sellers said they found resellable items in their homes. By eBay’s report, American homes have an average of 36 household items that can be resold — or the equivalent of $3,675 worth of value sitting around.
“You can buy just about anything you can think of on eBay….new goods as well, used goods, collectibles — the unique finds that really do inspire our buyers,” added Morin, on how the platform is differentiating itself by offering flexibility.
Along with other resale marketplaces, eBay saw growth amid the pandemic. For April and May, the marketplace saw approximately 6 million new buyers join its platform. Last spring, the company also launched a small business accelerator called Up & Running, as a way to support small businesses in light of the grueling retail closures.
With the changing market, eBay is shifting how it communicates its sustainability plans. While Morin has been with the company since 2018, her new role sits within investor relations. Just recently, eBay introduced an “ESG [Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance] council” to its operations. Declining to reveal more at the time, Morin said the upcoming sustainability programs will center around top-selling resale categories such as fashion and electronics.
“One thing I think Gen Zers are really good at is understanding that because something’s been used before doesn’t mean it’s of poor quality,” she said.
With circularity as the way forward, many experts are asking whether new key performance indicators are needed. “I think what’s interesting, too, being on eBay is we sell everything, so we can’t necessarily get that specific about a KPI that would apply to all the different types of products. Typically, we’ve relied on avoided carbon emissions through the lifecycle of that product because its resold, how many emissions are avoided because it’s used more than once. That tends to be one [metric] we can track pretty easily,” said Morin.
The other metric she mentioned was avoided landfill pounds or tonnage, being quick to add: “We have not tried to publish anything on that yet because we want to make sure that we don’t greenwash.”
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