Thibaud Hug de Larauze (Back Market): “Environmentalists and the business community are increasingly on the same page”

At five billion euros, the reconditioned-electronic-devices retailer has become the most valuable unicorn in French history, a performance all the more remarkable for a company rooted in the circular economy. Leaders League got the thoughts of its founder and CEO, Thibaud Hug de Larauze.

Posted lundi, février 7 2022
Thibaud Hug de Larauze (Back Market): “Environmentalists and the business community are increasingly on the same page”

How far along is Back Market in its development?
2021 was an incredibly fruitful year for the company, from a human perspective especially, since we were able to bring in 200 new staff members during the year. Last year also saw Back Market expand internationally, opening offices in Berlin and Barcelona, as well as enter new markets, including Japan.

Reconditioned devices are becoming more and more popular across the globe and an ever-increasing number of brands and outlets are keen to join forces with us, as evidenced by our partnership with the Carrefour chain of supermarkets, in whose French premises we have set up some 120 Back Market smartphone-collection points.

We have also signed deals with companies such as Dyson, Bosche and Go Pro. For multinational device-manufacturers, the circular economy is no longer an afterthought, but a central component of their business strategy.

Does Back Market draw inspiration from the second-hand car market?
The automobile sector has undeniably the most mature second-hand sales market in the world. Sales of used vehicles represent 70% of total sales in the auto sector, against 7% for digital devices, therefore Back Market’s growth-potential is immense.

If it all began with the sale of spare parts for repairs, the second-hand car market flourished when the offer was expanded to include maintenance contracts, parts guarantees, financing and, of course, the sale of used vehicles.

For device-manufacturers, the circular economy is no longer an afterthought, but a central component of their business strategy

By contrast, the reconditioned devices sector is still in its infancy. However we recently won an important battle with smart-phone and computer manufacturers in the shape of the Agec law [a 2020 piece of French anti-waste legislation] which obliges them to sell spare parts. This is a significant change in the law, but we have a long road ahead of us.

According to a recently published study by the French Agency for the Ecological Transition, a new smartphone emits 86.5kgs of CO2, a reconditioned one 80kgs less. At the dawn of the digital decarbonization era, Back Market is on the right side of history.

What’s next for Back Market?
Our immediate task is to expand the product sell-back model. At the moment we focus mainly on smartphones, tablets and video-game consoles in France and Germany primarily. We intend to fine-tune our model in addition to expanding to include other markets and devices.

Another key area to pay attention to is client services, to limit any brakes on growth. One way we aim to improve the customer experience is via our Back Replace service, by which a Back Market customer can receive a replacement product without first having to supply us with their existing damaged one. Aside from this we intend, of course, to continue with our international expansion plans. 

What has achieving unicorn status meant for the company?
It’s mostly symbolic, really. What drives Back Market on a daily basis is not these types of financial milestones, but rather the part we play in developing the circular economy. The fact that we have had success doing it is nice, but this was never our main goal.

What I want is for Back Market to be a shining beacon of good governance and contribute to popularizing a new, more sustainable business model. It is for this reason that we are in the process of applying for B-Corp certification.

We have arrived at a tipping point for environmental issues and environmentalists and the business community are increasingly on the same page in this regard. We forecast the emergence of more “green unicorns” in the coming years, which will accelerate the ecological transition and lead to wholesale changes in the way established companies do business.