Is the resale market as sustainable as we think? | Deloitte Netherlands


Is the resale market as sustainable as we think?

Building the future of resale

The resale market is often considered as the sustainable solution for overconsumption and waste. However, recent research has cast doubt on this idea. Reselling does offer a path to an extended lifecycle of products, but it’s not the clear-cut win for sustainability that it promised to be. Yet it can be part of the solution. Here’s how.

Reselling: the perfect answer to overconsumption and waste?

At first glance, the concept of buying second-hand items would seem like the perfect solution for overconsumption and waste. Yet in practice it is not. Second-hand goods are often complementary to new goods rather than substitutes. So instead of being reduced, the continuous cycle of overconsumption actually keeps expanding. And there are more drawbacks. For instance, reselling and donating products contributes to an increase of carbon emissions1. Also, the donation of items to developing countries is not as beneficial as it seems. Sadly, instead of reducing poverty and waste, donation of goods from Europe and the US affects the growth of local manufacturing industries - and many of the donated products end up in large landfills, polluting the landscape.

Second-Hand Frenzy: is the resale market as sustainable as we think?

A holistic approach

Still, the resale market can be part of a more holistic approach to diminish overconsumption and waste. For companies who are striving to incorporate reselling into their strategies, it is pivotal to consider their entire impact, from production to consumption to disposal, and make a conscious choice between repairing, reselling, and recycling. Transparency about the overall environmental impact of their initiatives is key as well. A lack of standardization enables certain fashion brands to refrain from providing specific details about whether or how their newly introduced resale programs will effectively reduce their brand’s overall environmental impact.

Building the future of resale - strategies and business models

Deloitte’s Point-of-View Second Hand Frenzy: is the resale market as sustainable as we think? discusses three common resale business models (Buy back, Consignment resale, and Online marketplaces). It also contains more productive and cost-effective strategies for the future of resale, based on transparency, sustainable sourcing, environmentally friendly materials, a focus on new sources of value, a closed-loop supply chain, and a local supply chain approach. These business models and strategies are described in detail in the Point-of-View. With the proper business models and strategies in place, and with the commitment and collaboration of all stakeholders (from brands and suppliers to policy makers and consumers), the resale market will be able to contribute to a more sustainable future. If you have any questions or want to discuss this topic, please contact us.

1 Global Powers of Retailing 2023. (2023). Deloitte.

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