Sustainability has long been core to our business, starting with that first sale of a broken laser pointer purchased by someone who wanted to give it new life over 25 years ago.
Over the past year, we have invested in renewable energy, strengthened our commitments in reducing our carbon footprint and championed recommerce, the sale of secondhand goods.
Guiding all of these environmental initiatives is Renée Morin, our chief sustainability officer. This Earth Day, we sat down with Renée to learn more about her day-to-day role, the importance of recommerce and why this is her passion.
How is eBay a sustainable company, and why is this so important?
I think for any large company operating today, we have a responsibility to make sure that we're headed in the right direction – that we are minimizing our environmental impact, that we are supporting our customers, our consumers and our employees. And all those different sorts of activities really do help create a full picture of how eBay operates.
eBay is a sustainable company in that we have set both internal and external goals that address primarily environmental, social and economic sustainability. We create economic opportunities for all. We've set goals around climate change and around renewable energy for our own operations, so that we're operating as efficiently and as cleanly as we can. In addition, we also have goals that are external in the sense that they rely on the activities of our sellers and buyers, so when they’re purchasing pre-owned goods online, we can capture that environmental benefit and help consumers know their purchases are doing good.
How does recommerce help support that mission?
We just released our second Recommerce Report, specifically surveying our consumer-to-consumer sellers. Recommerce, in itself, lessens the environmental impact of a particular item. When a pre-loved item, say a sweater or a laptop, is purchased, a new one does not have to be produced in its place. This translates into less carbon being emitted, preventing a pre-owned item from going directly to a landfill so it now has a second or maybe even third life.
There's also a really nice economic benefit both for the seller, who gets to make money off of a pre-owned item, and for the buyer who doesn't have to spend as much to purchase that item if it were new.
So, what does a chief sustainability officer do?
When you see “eBay decreased our carbon emissions” or “increased our renewable energy footprint” – those are lines of work that me and my team have direct impact on, calculating and showing our progress.
I focus a bit more on the environmental side because that's where my technical background is. I also oversee the production of our annual Impact Report. I sit within the investor relations team, so there's a lot of interaction these days with investors and shareholders, and our NGO partners as well.
What are some ways you personally practice sustainability?
I recycle. Some people who come to visit my house might think that I’m overly sensitive to recycling, but it is something you can do on your own. As a kid I was taught not to waste, to use things again, which goes along with recommerce. My dad always said there’s no reason to buy something new if you've got something used that can fulfill another purpose. I’ve learned along the way to be careful about when and what I purchase. I would say definitely I don’t purchase as much clothing as I used to, say 10 years ago, as we realize how much more important the circular economy is to our planet.
What else can you tell us about yourself?
Let’s see, I grew up in a military family that is very service-oriented. My dad was in the navy, and my mom is a teacher. I think that's part of the reason why I gravitated toward environmental science.
I was in the Peace Corps out of college. I spent two years in Gabon, Africa, and again that work is all about a service-oriented mindset: What can I do that “fills my own tank” but also hopefully helps others? That's where I started my career in sustainability and environmental science, which has been a driving force for the last 20-something years. I’m fortunate enough to have a job that can be impactful and when I get to see the results of that work, it’s very fulfilling.
Why are you so passionate about recommerce, and what are some secondhand items you have bought on eBay?
I'm passionate about recommerce, because it's just such a simple, easy, accessible way for us to participate in the circular economy and more specifically circular commerce. It’s important to minimize the amount of stuff that we have to make — because ultimately — there will be a limit on resources at some point. We haven't hit it yet, but every time that we purchase something that we may not need, it's one more thing that adds to the waste that ends up in our landfills.
Recently, I bought refurbished AirPods for Zoom calls and a pair of brown boots. Oh, and I’ve convinced three friends to buy cordless pre-loved vacuum cleaners on eBay because I have one. The first thing I ever bought on eBay was for my brother for Christmas, at auction on eBay in the late 1990s. He was a big Star Wars fan, maybe still is, so I bought him the VHS Star Wars trilogy. I won at an auction, and I still remember to this day just how excited I was when I got that notice! I should probably see if he’s digitized those tapes so they can continue to have a long life!
Our business continues to be driven by the principle of empowering communities through thoughtful commerce. We embrace sustainable practices throughout our business, creating opportunities and enabling people to make meaningful choices for their purchases and businesses, and realizing a prosperous world for all. Learn more about impact at ebayinc.com/impact.