Back Market and the Global E-Waste Crisis
Case Code: CSRS015
Case Length: 18 Pages
Pub Date: 2023
Teaching Note: Available
Organization: Back Market
Industry: Technology & Communications, Manufacturing
Themes: Business Ethics, Corporate Responsibility ,Sustainability,Business Ethics
Abstract Case Intro 1 Case Intro 2 Excerpts
The case discusses Paris based renewed electronics online marketplace Back Market’s efforts to tackle the global e-waste crisis by offering a sustainable alternative to new tech, through the creation of an online marketplace specializing in selling professionally refurbished electronic and household appliances. Founded in 2014, Back Market is one of the world’s first online marketplaces dedicated to selling refurbished consumer electronics. The company’s mission is to empower people to buy tech sustainably by offering a high quality, accessible, and more eco-friendly alternative to buying new electronic products. Back Market operates in 16 countries that include the US, France, Germany, the UK, Spain, and Japan.
The case explores how e-waste is a complex environmental issue and the role companies like Back Market can play to combat it. E-waste is the fastest growing and most toxic waste in landfills – harming humans and the environment. Around 50 million metric tons of e-waste are generated globally every year. The case describes how Back Market is tackling the problem of e-waste by giving expertly restored devices a second life and offering them at affordable prices with exceptional customer service, quick shipping, and quality guarantees thrown in. The online marketplace brings together professional third party refurbishers providing high-quality electronics and environmentally responsible customers looking to purchase used products. Rather than refurbishing devices directly, Back Market works with independent vendors who act as its sourcing partners. The company earns a 10% commission on each sale. By prolonging the life of millions of consumer electronic devices, Back Market is creating low-cost access to high quality products such as refurbished iPhones, iPads, laptops etc. Reportedly, the purchase of a refurbished smartphone saves approximately 91% of CO2 emissions, 68800 liters of water, and 129 grams of precious metal.
However, the company has been facing some challenges in its fight against e-waste including expanding to new markets, sustaining growth, broadening the scope of refurbishment from mostly smartphones and tablets to other segments such as gaming consoles and smart home products, and encouraging tech companies to reconsider how they designed and built their devices. The biggest challenge for the company will, however, lie in building consumer trust in refurbished tech and influencing consumer behavior in order to make refurbished their first choice for electronic purchases. With e-waste being such a critical issue for the planet as well as for human life, what can the three co-founders of Back Market, Thibaud Hug de Larauze (CEO), Vianney Vaute (CCO), and Quentin Le Brouster (CTO), do to ensure that its commitment and efforts go far enough to drive change on the ground? What more can Back Market do to capitalize on its commitment and encourage more consumers to use its refurbished products?
The case is structured to achieve the following teaching objectives:
- Understand the problem of e-waste and the need for companies to address it
- Compare and contrast Linear and Circular Economy
- Understand the role of refurbished technology in a Circular Economy
- Understand the ReCommerce business model and how it contributes to environment sustainability and a circular economy.
- Evaluate the business model of Back Market
- Explore ways through which Back Market can efficiently address the e-waste crisis.
E-Waste Crisis and Circular Economy in Tech
A Global Marketplace
E-waste Crisis; Sustainable Development Goals; Refurbished Tech; Circular Economy, Climate change; E-waste value chain; Sustainability; Product Life Extension; Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration; Sustainability Leadership; Circular Business Models
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