Sustainable Business Practices at Best Buy: Recycling and Upgrading

By Amanda Kidd

For a company that has a fifth of the total consumer electronics market under its belt in the United States, Best Buy has surprisingly placed sustainable and environment-friendly business practices over thoughtless growth. The largest retailer of electronic products in the US has taken this bold step by announcing its commitment to include social and environmental responsibilities in its business strategy. The path they have chosen is one that encompasses the principles of recycling and upgrading in a consumer-friendly and profitable manner.

The challenge of trying to straddle sustainability and profitability (and growth) is a huge one for any business, but more so in the case of a business focused on retailing consumer electronics. The market for and the marketing of consumer electronics both run on the principle of diminishing utility. The lifecycle clocks of products start ticking from the time they leave the design board. As soon as you have bought the latest model of a phone or a tablet, you are informed that there are better and more advanced products available. Targeted advertising and promotions ensure that you are under the maximum pressure to either upgrade or recycle.

Best Buy announced a program to recycle a billion pounds of consumer goods along with reducing its carbon footprint by 20% by the year 2020. This ambitious program involves a variety of measures, at the heart of which is the Buyback program that it launched in January 2010 for its customers. This program is a WOW for both consumers and environmentalists. When you buy a product from Best Buy, you can join the program for a small fee. As part of the program, Best Buy will buy the product back from you under the upfront terms and conditions of the repurchase agreement. They will then re-use, upgrade or recycle the product as they see fit. The sooner you bring the product back after buying it, the more you will get reimbursed. This helps reduce electronic waste and saves money in disposing of safely. In addition, it allows products to be easily and cheaply upgraded. The reusability aspect of this program increases the otherwise short lifecycle of electronic products.

Along with, Best Buy has also increased its focus on energy efficient products as part of its commitment in building a sustainable business model. As a major retailer, it can use its presence to contribute greatly to the adoption and proliferation of energy star rated products among its customers. This will result in lowered energy consumption and lower emission at multiple levels.

Like all attempts at building a sustainable business, this program of combining recycling and upgrading comes with its downsides too. By encouraging early upgrades and buybacks, this program actually ends up stimulating consumption patterns. In the long run, this will mean more electronic waste out there. The attendant ill effects of overconsumption on the social environment will also increase. Moreover, the reservations that companies may have about adopting sustainable models is evident from the fact that this green initiative by the largest electronic retailer has not been publicized a lot, not even by the company itself.

The hallmark of good and ethical initiatives is perhaps the struggle through which they have to go in order to be actualized. The fact that businesses that are on the front lines of the damage being caused to our fragile ecology are coming forward with such programs is a sign of things to come. What remains to be seen, however, is how businesses are able to balance the objective of ongoing wealth creation with the need to be environmentally ethical.


About the author: Amanda Kidd is a blogger who also happens to be car lover and has become a fan of Volkswagen Jetta. She is very fascinated by the luxury world and hence, is planning to write an article on the most expensive vehicles in the world. Beside this she also likes to write on Urban Design

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