Despite the attention ESG metrics receive in the media and the Republican political circuit, it’s sometimes hard to see investors focusing on much other than profits and sales. Take, for example, eBay.
On Tuesday, eBay released its third annual Recommerce Report, brimming with positive spin on the sustainability impact of the company’s “recommerce” model—that is, the reselling of goods through e-commerce.
According to the Recommerce Report, which is a survey of over 18,000 eBay buyers and sellers, “recommerce resulted in 73,000 metric tons of waste avoided from landfills, 1.6 million metric tons of avoided carbon, and $4.6 billion in positive economic impact created by eBay’s sellers and buyers.” The report also notes that 79% of eBay sellers said their sales had stayed the same or increased over the past six months.
“We have proof from our sellers and buyers that more recommerce is happening now than there was even a year ago,” eBay chief sustainability officer Renee Morin told me on Wednesday, ahead of the company’s quarterly earnings report.
When the fourth quarter earnings were released, however, shares in eBay slid 4.5% after the company reported below-expected earnings and sales. The e-commerce pioneer reported a 12% drop in the gross merchandise value of goods sold on its platform, falling to $18.2 billion from $20.7 billion the year before. The number of active buyers shopping on eBay slumped 9% in the fourth quarter over last year, too, falling in at 134 million customers.
“EBay is back to where it was before the pandemic, losing customers and declining sales,” Brian Yarbrough, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co., told Bloomberg. “Unless you’re looking for an odd item, eBay is forgotten by most consumers. You just don’t hear a lot about it the way you do the Walmarts, Targets, and Amazons of the world.”
It’s worth noting that eBay ranks second to Amazon in terms of U.S. online gross merchandise sales, cinching above Target and Walmart. But, with active buyer and GMV numbers dropping for seven consecutive quarters, it’s no wonder why eBay has been busily promoting its identity as a “circular economy” supplier, to capture the zeitgeist of sustainability-conscious consumers. (See this Fortune report on the matter from last year.)
“Sustainability is a concern for both sellers and buyers on eBay, especially when we look at Gen Z and millennials, who tend to be a bit more value-conscious in their decisions around what they want to purchase,” Morin said.
But even there, on eBay’s consumer and seller side, sustainability is secondary to economics.
According to the Recommerce Report, buyers said saving money was the key consideration leading them to shop secondhand, while sellers said earning money was the primary reason for listing previously owned items on eBay. Sustainability was the second-most important driving force for both.
ALSO ON OUR RADAR
Norfolk Southern CEO makes 5-year pledge to help disaster-struck Ohio town and calls aid so far a ‘down payment’ for toxic train wreck
Two weeks ago, a train laden with toxic chemicals derailed while passing through East Palestine, Ohio, spilling its payload and causing an ecological disaster. Rather than wait for the derailed cars to explode by accident, officials decided to vent the volatile chemicals stored in five of the 50 mangled carriages in a “controlled” burn that sent a plume of black smoke jetting into the sky. This week, the CEO of the company responsible for the freight train, Norfolk Southern, gave his first media interview on the situation and pledged his company would be involved in the cleanup for the long term.
The CEO of India’s largest renewables company predicts ‘major progress’ on climate in the next few years
Sumant Sinha, the founder, chairman, and CEO of ReNew, thinks there are several key reasons to be optimistic that 2023 will see “action, not just pledges” on climate change. Government investment is ramping up, via schemes like the Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S. Worldwide, corporations have increased ownership of Power Purchasing Agreements, locking in long-term renewable energy contracts. And green hydrogen is developing faster than anticipated, Sinha writes in an op-ed for Fortune.
America’s productivity engine is sputtering. Fixing it is a $10 trillion opportunity
America’s economy has a labor problem. The U.S. is missing workers, with workforce participation down from 67% in the 1990s to 62% today. Compounding the issue is that too many active workers lack the skills they need to succeed, McKinsey’s Asutosh Padhi and Olivia White write for Fortune.
Office vacancy will skyrocket 55% by the end of the decade as hybrid and remote work push real estate to an ‘inflection point’
Commercial landlords are staring down catastrophe. As much as 330 million square feet of U.S. office space could become vacant and unused by 2030 due to remote and hybrid work, according to a report released Wednesday by global real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield. When added to another 740 million square feet of space that will become vacant from “natural” causes, Fortune’s Tristan Bove reports, the forecasted total is around 1 billion square feet of unused office space building up over the next seven years.
This is the web version of Impact Report, a weekly newsletter on the latest ESG trends and news that are shaping the future of business. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.