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E-commerce company Olive looks to make shopping more sustainable

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Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and Nate Faust, Olive founder, discuss sustainability in e-commerce amid the company’s launch.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Welcome back. Nate Faust is no stranger to e-commerce. The co-founder of jet.com and former senior VP at Walmart is looking to disrupt the e-commerce industry with his latest startup, Olive, which consolidates your purchases into a single weekly delivery in a reusable package. Nate's here with us now. Thanks so much for joining us. And congratulations on the launch of Olive, which when I said it was brand new, I wasn't kidding. You launched two days ago. That's not a lot of data to work off of, but how are things at the get-go?

NATE FAUST: Yeah, the response has been great. Obviously still early days, but both from consumers, and I would say what's even been more unexpected over the last few days, we had over 100 retail partners signed up for launch. And we've had significant outreach just in the last 48 hours.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: So talk to me about why you felt it necessary to launch Olive. Why did we need a more sustainable e-commerce experience?

NATE FAUST: Yeah, it's funny. You know, I-- as you mentioned, I've been in e-commerce for over a decade now. And I left Walmart about a year ago and was thinking about what I wanted to do next. And want to do something with sustainability impact and hadn't even considered e-commerce, until one night, taking out the trash, just realized how big of a problem this has become from both an environmental perspective and a consumer pain point perspective. And I think that's what really makes it time and ripe for an opportunity to change, is that it really has gotten to the point where, from just a raw convenience perspective, it's become almost inconvenient.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: So then how do you sell the platform to people who don't necessarily think twice about the environmental impact they're having every time they have an item shipped to their house in a cardboard box?

NATE FAUST: Yeah, absolutely. So the mission of Olive is undeniably on creating a greener supply chain for e-commerce. But our value proposition to consumers is all about convenience. Because we feel the greatest long-term impact will come from a service that customers love to use, regardless of whether they're focused on the environment.

And so with Olive, when you sign up, there's absolutely no fee to consumers. You can shop over 100 of your favorite fashion sites. And everything you order comes delivered in these reusable two-way shippers. And the most convenient aspect is our return process, where there's no labels to print. You just drop any unwanted items back into the two-way shipper, a few clicks in the Olive app, and we pick it up off your doorstep.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: So I want to talk a little bit about that process. Because I know it comes to your doorstep in this reusable tote that says Olive on it. And I guess, you then can keep that resealable bag if you're not returning items. If you are returning items, you put them back into that tote. But let's talk about your consolidation facility. Oh, there we go. We're showing some video of how it works right now. So the products are sent to an Olive facility, but aren't they getting to your facility with the same boxes and packaging that you're trying to do away with?

NATE FAUST: Absolutely they are. At the moment, they absolutely are. And we're very transparent about that with consumers. There's actually a dual sustainability impact that we're aiming to have. The first and most noticeable to consumers in the long term will be the elimination of the packaging.

But the more significant benefit from an environmental perspective is actually the fact that we send you-- depending on where you live, we only deliver to each zip code one or two times per week. And so you get multiple deliveries together in one of these two-way shippers, such that the number of truck stops, the number of last mile stops, which is where the majority of post-purchase e-commerce carbon emissions come from, are reduced.

And just one quick thing to note, we actually do still have customers send us back the shipper, even if there's not returns. And the way we do that in the most sustainable way possible is for the majority of our footprint, your local mailman or mail carrier will pick it straight up off your doorstep when they're delivering the mail.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Ah, I was wondering because I was saying, you know, if you use the service enough, you're going to be stuck with a lot of those reusable Olive totes. So that was a good point to make. But, you know, in terms of delivery, I mean, there is this war going on between Amazon and other e-commerce platforms to try to get you your stuff as quickly as possible. That doesn't seem to necessarily be a priority, though at Olive, is it?

NATE FAUST: It's not. In the longer term, delivery frequency will become faster and faster as consumers order more through the Olive platform. But we always have the benefit to reduce the number of trips. And I used to be part of those delivery wars, starting out at a startup called diapers.com, where we were one of the first companies to do same day delivery in New York.

I worked at Amazon for a while, was part of Amazon-- or sorry, part of Walmart-- as we drove two-day delivery, next day delivery, and now, most recently, Walmart Plus has launched-- which are all incredible services, but there's other elements to the delivery experience that haven't even been offered to consumers. And in the research and studies that we've done, these are huge opportunities to deliver different customer experiences and ones that customers want, even though they might not know they want them because they haven't existed previously.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: So I know you're starting out with-- you say you have, like, 100 retailers that you're working with. And this is mostly fashion and apparel. But do you see yourself expanding to other kinds of products? And I'm thinking food, maybe perishables, where, you know, delivery and the speed of delivery then becomes more of an issue.

NATE FAUST: Sure, so the long-term goal is to be able to deliver and service absolutely everything that you buy online. Apparel is a great place to start because it's the largest online shopping category, and it's also the one in which consumers shop at the most number of different outlets, enabling the greatest benefit of this consolidation.

In the future, as we do add other categories, the more a consumer buys through all Olive partners, the greater that consolidation benefit can become, even with more frequent delivery. So in the long term, a very frequent shopper would still get, effectively, the same delivery speed that they would otherwise.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right, Nate Faust, founder of Olive. Just launched here a couple of days ago. Best of luck with the company, and we'll be watching.

NATE FAUST: Excellent. Thank you so much, Alexis.