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Trashed No More: Amazon Helps Sellers Funnel Surplus Goods to Charity

Amazon announced a new program that extends its charitable efforts to scores of sellers.

Fulfillment by Amazon Donation (FBAD) enables sellers participating in Amazon’s direct fulfillment program (FBA) to ensure their product goes to worthy causes rather than being destroyed. The move comes after a documentary captured Amazon in a French documentary disposing of millions of usable goods in the country, with the Daily Mail uncovering similar activities in the U.K.

Amazon claims it already donates tons of product to various charities and now FBAD gives its sellers a means of funneling their excess to good causes as well. It’ll be the default option for sellers, though they’re able to opt out. The program accepts multiple categories of product including apparel. Amazon said it’ll spearhead the logistics of getting donations to charity partners, including Good360 in the U.S. and across the pond, Newlife, Barnardo’s and Salvation Army in the U.K.

Sellers still bear the responsibility of paying a disposal fee for their surplus to be donated but the optics of giving to charity versus landfilling virtually first-rate goods is vastly improved. Amazon declined to disclose how many of its sellers use FBA and are eligible for FBAD.

The program stands to create a new scenario for customer returns. “Amazon’s goal is to ensure our customers are completely satisfied with any products they buy. However, returns happen when customers can’t use a product they have purchased—or change their mind about it,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “At Amazon, the vast majority of returned products are resold to other customers or liquidators, returned to suppliers, or donated to charitable organizations, depending on their condition.”

Amazon said that through its partnership with Good360 it donates “tens of millions of dollars in goods annually to charities and ultimately individuals in need.”

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The nonprofit works with retailers and consumer goods companies like American Eagle Outfitters, Walmart and Gap to “source highly needed goods and distribute them through a network of diverse nonprofits that support people in need,” the spokesperson added. “In certain cases we are unable to re-sell or donate products, for example for safety or hygiene reasons. We’re working hard to bring this number to zero.”

The FBAD program is set to take effect in September. “We know getting products into the hands of those who need them transforms lives and strengthens local communities,” said Amazon in the Community director Alice Shobe. “We are delighted to extend this program to sellers who use our fulfillment services.”

News of Amazon’s wasteful ways in France and the U.K. created an uproar but the FBAD initiative could refurbish its image while improving its sustainability profile. And it’s keeping good company with a growing quorum of brands similarly donating, rather than binning, usable goods.

Nike said that its new kid’s sneaker subscription allows customers to send back used shoes that will be donated or recycled for parts. Universal Standard, the maker of elevated size-inclusive women’s apparel, operates program called Fit Liberty that encourages customers to return within a year of purchase clothing that no longer fits, with the old items donated to charity if they still have some mileage left.