The Power of Partnerships in Bridging Sustainability and Business


Insight from Optoro, a DC-based tech company, on the power of forging new partnerships to meet circularity goals.

[Editor’s Note: Jon So, Senior Director of Product Marketing and Partnerships at Optoro will be speaking along with Patrick Browne, Director of Global Sustainability at UPS at our upcoming Circular Economy Summit June 26-28. To see a full list of speakers and featured discussion topics, click here.]

As more businesses and technology companies are created with sustainability missions at their core, the impact of enacting a more circular economy is becoming more apparent. But embedding circularity into business models is often seen as a challenge and there may be sacrifices made for the sake of generating revenue. For businesses not willing to compromise on sustainability, or more specifically, circularity, forging new partnerships with other organizations can sometimes be an excellent bridge between the two goals.

In December 2016, Optoro®, a DC-based technology company, and UPS®, a global leader in logistics, together announced that they had formed a strategic alliance providing a one-stop shop solution for retailers and manufacturers to optimize the transportation and disposition of returns and excess inventory. The companies’ joint reverse logistics solutions combine UPS’s operational and logistics expertise with Optoro’s software platform that maximizes financial recovery and reduces environmental waste.

To understand the reasoning behind Optoro and UPS’ alliance, one must first be familiar with the problem of returns and retail waste. Every year in the United States alone, an estimated 15% of all goods are returned or deemed excess, leaving $500B of value on the table for retailers, and posing significant environmental consequences due to landfill waste. For years, retailers and logistics providers have invested in perfecting forward logistics – the delivery of goods – which is ever-evolving, parallel to consumer demand. But with the recent and rapid growth of eCommerce, retailers are facing a growing number of challenges around returns and most are simply not equipped to keep up.

In evaluating the potential alliance, UPS and Optoro determined that their joint goal was simple: to minimize the impact that returns had on the environment. As a small company, Optoro’s strengths lie in agile development of cutting edge technology that enables circular economies and facilitates the reuse of goods, but as a young company, adoption can be a challenge. For UPS, the ability to rely on Optoro for the co-development of returns solutions is beneficial as it helps add to their growing portfolio of solutions for retail clients. Identifying gaps in business models, practices, or resources can help companies – both big and small – determine what to look for when evaluating partnerships. For both organizations, the alliance helps the other become a more well-rounded, more sustainability-minded company. And as for the retail clients that Optoro and UPS are serving, the joint solution delivers a more streamlined reverse logistics process, in which sophisticated technology intervenes farther upstream in the returns process so that there is a clear path for the dispositioning of individual goods. Ultimately, the clients experience better financial recovery, a more efficient transportation network, and reduced physical waste.

The story of Optoro and UPS’ alliance is just one of thousands of business partnerships that help organizations grow and thrive. Now more than ever, it’s important for businesses with sustainability missions to scale and implement their solutions at organizations across the country. Using their alliance as an example, Optoro Co-Founder & President, Adam Vitarello, and UPS’ Global Director of Sustainability, Patrick Browne, will co-present at a workshop at the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Circular Economy Summit on June 28, 2017. Their goal is to offer participants the opportunity to think through how they might be able to implement circular economy models into their own organizations, and who they might be able to partner with to make that happen. Understanding that partnerships can be powerful for bridging sustainability and business may be the first step in greater adoption of the circular economy.

For more information on The Chamber Foundation’s Third National Circular Economy Summit see here.