Best Buy Connects Green With Thrift

recycle binBest Buy is expanding its recycling program to all U.S. stores next month, and while it will charge $10 for many items, it will also reward customers with a $10 gift card. 

Experts say the move shows how important it is to link doing the right thing with the immediate impact of cost benefits for consumers. That positioning is smart, says Jonathan Yohannan, SVP of Cone Inc., a Boston-based cause-related marketing company, "because in this economy, blending environmentalism with saving money is critical."

While many national chains have viewed the vagaries of recycling, usually fraught with local issues, "as an albatross, the good ones are seeing it as an opportunity to build loyalty and drive traffic," he says.

Cone's research has shown that 51% of shoppers say they consider the environmental impact of their electronics purchases. And most electronics recycling programs, he admits, require calling and requesting boxes and mailing labels. "Frankly, it's been a chore," he says, with consumers worrying that after all the hassle, their old computers may end up in landfills anyway.



While Best Buy has continually trumpeted its recycling efforts to shoppers--offering recycling kiosks in stores for ink cartridges, rechargeable batteries, cell phones, CDs and DVDs, as well as providing a Web site for tech trade-ins and swapping Best Buy gift cards for gently used electronics--it is not alone.

Earlier this week, Staples expanded its ink-and-toner recycling program to give consumers who recycle a $3 reward. (Staples also offers everyday recycling for the same $10 fee, but only offers rewards and rebates during special promotions.)

Yohannan believes we will see more green initiatives that also offer a cost benefit, such as Arm & Hammer's Essentials line, the waterless cleaners Church & Dwight Co. introduced last summer that allow consumers "to save more and waste less," or stores like Walmart expanding its low-cost organics and fair-trade offerings.

"There's been so much clutter and greenwashing in the last two years," he says. "Companies that can make a direct, believable appeal to consumers that let them save money and know they're being environmentally responsible are going to do well."

Best Buy, which had previously offered buyouts to reduce staff at its Minneapolis headquarters, reportedly plans to lay off staff as well.

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