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Why Narvar Was Recognized for Social Good on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies List in 2022

Narvar is back on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies list for the third time! This year we’re ranked #10 in the Social Good category based on the positive impact we’re making on sustainability in post-purchase. Given the scale of ecommerce traffic Narvar touches — more than 2 billion packages each year — we have an outsized influence on how retailers can radically improve the efficiency and sustainability of their operations.

It’s humbling to be recognized yet again as one of Fast Company’s World’s Most Innovative Companies,” said Amit Sharma, CEO and founder of Narvar. “I’m proud of everyone at Narvar — our people are essential to forging a culture that encourages taking the smart leaps which yield these innovations. By staying maniacally focused on simplifying the everyday lives of consumers, we’ve been able to create efficiencies for retailers that benefit both our planet and the bottom line.”

Visit Narvar.com/sustainability to learn more.

Greener by design

We’re especially pleased that most of these eco-friendly savings are due to things we already do every day with our retail clients. It turns out that focusing on smart, efficient operations for more than 1200 retailers around the world can make a big impact on our collective carbon footprint, as well as making economic sense. In a very basic example, the retailers who move their returns processing to Narvar’s online portal and stop putting a pre-printed return label in every outbound order are collectively saving reams of paper — a stack 2.2 miles high last year, in fact! 

Since the majority of items never get returned, taking the return label out of every outbound order and moving the process online for those 10-20% of orders that DO get returned saves literally tons of paper, as well as about 50 cents per outbound order for the label itself and insertion.

Offering printerless QR codes or boxless returns can shrink paper usage even further. Last year we increased the availability of printerless returns across all major carriers in the US, Canada, and Europe. About 15% of consumers choose to show a QR code at drop-off rather than printing a label and packing slip at home, saving effort and paper waste. We also offer boxless returns with both FedEx and UPS, which reduces packaging and shipment weight by leveraging recyclable polybags rather than larger, heavier boxes. 

Smart, automated routing of returns means lower emissions 

Another major key to how we make returns more sustainable is our robust rules engine, which enables retailers to automate how returns are handled across different scenarios. This creates efficiencies that impact things like paper use, package travel, and processing time and effort — all of which results in savings from both an financial and environmental perspective.

What does this look like? Here are just a few examples:

  • Sending returned product directly back to the appropriate place based on demand, source, or condition (e.g. back to a drop-shipper or marketplace vendor, to a store to be resold, to a repair or refurbishment facility, etc.)
  • Directing consumers to the closest nearby location for returns drop-off, or having packages conveniently picked up from their homes. According to a recent MIT study, carbon emissions from online shopping are 36% lower, on average, than those produced by in-store trips since a standard delivery van can replace 100 individual car trips.
  • Routing returns to a processing facility that’s geographically closer to the consumer to save package travel.

The greenest return is one that never happens

However much we all try to make returns more efficient, ultimately preventing returns — or at least the return shipment — is the greenest option of all. 

By leveraging return reasons data from the online portal, retailers can glean timely insights into product issues that can be used to prevent returns in the first place. Whether it’s fixing quality issues further up the supply chain (see how Signature Hardware handles this), revisiting inadequate packaging which increases damage in transit, or updating product information and photos on the PDP to provide more accurate information about fit or color, addressing the issues identified by data can prevent a good portion of returns.

If an item is damaged or otherwise not worth shipping back, trigger your “keep the item” policy, which provides a refund without asking the customer to ship the item back. Concerned about friendly fraud? Ask for a photo to be uploaded as proof which adds just enough friction. Want to better understand this approach? We did some research into consumer sentiment towards “keep the item” policies — check out our findings and recommendations here. Half of those surveyed said they appreciate that retailers are saving cost and the environment by not having items shipped back.

"By staying maniacally focused on simplifying the everyday lives of consumers, we’ve been able to create efficiencies for retailers that benefit both our planet and the bottom line.”
Amit Sharma
Founder & CEO, Narvar

Although we deeply appreciate being recognized for the work we’re already doing to reduce post-purchase environmental impact, we know that there’s still much more to be done. We’re committed to continuing improvements — stay tuned.

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Narvar was previously named to Fast Company’s MIC list in 2021 at #3 in the Logistics category for our efforts to support retailers early in the pandemic and in 2019 at #7 in the Enterprise category for innovations in real-time visibility and control of packages for consumers.

Andria Tay

Andria is Global Director of Marketing & Communications at Narvar. She grew up in entertainment at iconic brands like EMI & MTV before pivoting to ecommerce, most recently at Walmart.com.

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