Amazon will make it easier and more affordable for its third-party sellers to donate their unwanted excess inventory and returns, rather than having the items sent back or destroyed. The company on Wednesday announced the launch of a new program, Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) Donations, which will distribute excess and returned products to charitable organizations.
The program’s launch follows a series of news reports earlier this year, which found that Amazon warehouses routinely trashed millions of unsold items. One smaller facility in France was even found to have sent 293,000 items to a local dump during a nine-month period. A French TV documentary also claimed that Amazon destroyed more than 3 million products last year.
The documentary had secretly filmed Amazon workers loading brand-new toys, kitchen equipment and flat-screen TVs for transport to the dump, a report said.
While it’s an unfortunately common retail practice to destroy excess or unwanted inventory or returned items — particularly in luxury apparel — at Amazon’s scale, the issue is compounded. In addition, the items being destroyed could make a real impact on people’s lives.
Amazon says it will begin donating products from sellers starting in September in the U.S. and U.K. with the help of charity partners. In the U.S., it’s working with Good360, an organization that partners with retailers and consumer goods companies to source and distribute highly needed products through a network of diverse nonprofits. In the U.K., Amazon is working with Newlife, Salvation Army and Barnardo’s.
Sellers told CNBC the new program makes it cheaper to donate than to dispose or ask for items to be returned, where Amazon charges 50 cents and 15 cents, respectively. The program will also be the new default for sellers, though they can choose to opt-out, if desired.
“We know getting products into the hands of those who need them transforms lives and strengthens local communities,” said Alice Shobe, director, Amazon in the Community, in a statement about the program’s launch. “We are delighted to extend this program to sellers who use our fulfillment services.”
The company also told CNBC that it’s working to bring the number of destroyed items to zero, and said the “vast majority” of returns were resold to other customers, liquidators, returned to suppliers or donated to charities, depending on their condition.