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Towards a new future of commerce that is circular, sustainable and pre-loved | Interview with the founder & CEO of Faircado

Over the course of 2022, the word sustainability cemented itself in our vocabulary and we all became more and more aware of the need to embed more sustainable and conscious decisions into our everyday lives as the reality of the climate crisis became even more apparent and concerning.

In the grand scheme of things, consumers and everyday people can feel a little powerless when it comes to addressing the world’s biggest challenges – and the climate crisis is certainly an overwhelming situation to deal with. But one way we can all make a difference is by being more conscious and choosing to be sustainable when we can. And for many, this means talking with our purses.

Born in Berlin, Faircado is helping consumers do precisely that. Founded in 2021 by Evoléna de Wilde d’Estmael and Ali Nezamolmaleki, Faircado is an innovative startup that is shaking up the retail space – and for good. The startup provides pioneering AI-powered second-hand shopping assistance. It works as a browser extension that shows customers the second-hand, and thus more sustainable and circular, alternative to items they’re shopping for online. It means consumers can effortlessly buy into the circular economy and help build a more sustainable world.

According to the European Commission, making the circular economy mainstream will be a crucial contribution in achieving climate neutrality by 2050. Circular economics reduces the use of raw materials and cuts carbon emissions. In general, the transition towards the circular economy could bring $4.5 trillion of economic growth by 2030.

We chatted with Evoléna to find out more about Faircado and how it is helping shape a more sustainable future for Europe.

What is the company’s vision?

At Faircado, we’ve built the first AI-powered second-hand shopping assistant working as a browser extension. We are a sustainable alternative to Amazon, showing customers all second-hand options to items they’re shopping for online. We partner with over 50 marketplaces including Vestiaire Collective, eBay, Rebuy, Back Market, Vinokilo and Refurbed. A few days ago, we launched the fashion apparel category, so now Faircado compiles 10 million second-hand items, including electronics, books, bags, clothes, footwear and accessories, allowing every consumer to switch from buying new to buying second-hand effortlessly.

The core business of our current linear economy is to turn natural resources into waste, at scale. Our mission at Faircado is to reduce global waste by accelerating the switch to a circular economy that serves the people and the planet. For that, we start by leveraging technology to change the way we consume and make second-hand the first choice of consumers.

What was the inspiration behind Faircado?

I grew up in a very ecologically conscious environment, so I have always tried to connect my life with sustainability. At a personal scale first: traveling by train, commuting by bike, eating organic, local and vegetarian food, and buying second-hand when possible.

Faircado was born in 2021 out of a personal problem. I moved to a new flat in Berlin and spent countless hours on second-hand platforms searching for furniture, frustrated about how time consuming and inconvenient it was to buy better. Around that same time, I was learning more about the circular economy and discovered some shocking statistics. For example, 9,023 smartphones are thrown away every second and, of the 100 billion garments produced each year, 92 million tonnes end up in landfills. It was time to go from a personal to a global impact scale.

The market lacked one solution that gathers all the second-hand offers in one place, so we sat down with Ali Nezamolmaleki, a friend and colleague, now co-founder and CTO of Faircado, and imagined the solution and tech behind Faircado: all second-hand offers in one place, with a great user experience, powered by AI.

Faircado wants to transform e-commerce to re-commerce. What is re-commerce?

Re-commerce is the future of e-commerce. It is the fast-growing business of selling “pre-loved” (or “second-hand”) stuff. More and more people and businesses turn to second-hand, because it makes sense at all levels: It is cheaper than new, every piece has a unique story, and it is much better for the environment. Reusing 1 kg of clothing saves 25 kg of CO2, and wearing a garment for 9 months longer diminishes its environmental impact by 30%.

Re-commerce is especially popular among younger generations for whom second-hand has really become a lifestyle. The second-hand clothing market is actually expected to be twice the size of fast fashion by 2030, and 74% of consumers in the U.S. have shopped or are open to shopping second-hand apparel. People want to consume better; their only barrier is the lack of convenience. That is why we created Faircado.

How do you aim to fuel this transformation?

We want to act on two levels. First, we strive to educate about the change that needs to happen: The reasons why fast-fashion is toxic, why we need to buy less and better, the impact of re-commerce vs. e-commerce and why we want to transform our economy. Then, we want to enable change in behaviors, with technology and through collaboration. As stated in the European Green Deal, we should leave no one behind. For us, that means making sustainable consumption accessible for all and partnering with all actors of the circular economy.

What other actors can help push the transformation forward?

Businesses and entrepreneurs have a key role to play in driving this change. By developing innovative technologies and business models that promote sustainability and the circular economy, we create new opportunities and solutions that help reduce waste and minimize our impact on the environment.

Government and policy makers also have an important role in supporting and enabling this transition. By providing the right regulatory frameworks and incentives, they can help create the conditions that enable businesses and individuals to adopt more sustainable practices and support the growth of the circular economy.

Consumers also have a critical role to play in driving this change. By making more conscious and informed choices about the products they purchase and how they use them, they create demand for more sustainable options and drive the adoption of circular economy practices.

Overall, I believe that it will take the collective efforts of businesses, policy makers, researchers, innovators, nonprofits and consumers to drive the transformation to a circular economy. By working together, we can create a change.

What is the big sustainability problem with retail?

There are mostly 3 big problems with retail today.

First, it depends on new products being produced constantly. Those products -and their associated supply chain and transportation impacts- significantly contribute to pollution, deforestation, and climate change.

Second, it designs its products to be disposable. The nature of the retail industry is to be linear. Most retail products are made to be used for a short period of time before being discarded, which leads to a huge amount of waste (2.12 billion tons per year!) and environmental degradation.

Third, it relies on cheap, disposable labor and practices. Which creates a range of social and environmental challenges, from poor working conditions and low wages to the destruction of natural habitats and the displacement of local communities.

These sustainability challenges require a combination of innovative business models, supportive policies and conscious consumer choices to be addressed. Nothing impossible to solve by a collective effort. We just need to move fast.

The circular economy is becoming more popular. Why do you think that is? What have been the most positively influencing factors?

The circular economy is based on the principle that nothing in the natural world is wasted. Resources are used safely and continuously, which is what we should base our own economy on as well. That doesn’t mean that we should turn our economy into charity: the circular economy could bring up to €4.5 trillion in economic benefits by 2030. And millions of new jobs, too. I am happy that more businesses and politicians understand this. Purpose-driven startups are becoming more attractive for investors, because more consumers are paying attention to what they’re buying.

Recent macroeconomic factors have positively impacted the interest in a circular economy, too. Issues like inflation, rising interest rates, geopolitical uncertainties and the cost-of-living crisis are pushing more consumers to turn to second-hand shopping.

A recent study showed that 32% of holiday gifters plan to buy second-hand items. That’s an amazing trend! To make this number even higher, we have launched the fashion apparel category of Faircado just before Christmas. How cool would it be if all of our presents under the Christmas tree would also be a win for our wallets and for the planet?!

How can circularity contribute to more sustainable societies?

The world is currently 8.6% circular. That means that more than 90% of the resources we extract are used only once. This makes little sense when we know that today, we need about 1.75 planets to provide the resources for our consumption and absorb our waste. It is as if we would be living on credit -almost spending twice as much as we have- and still waste 90% of what we borrowed. Ask any banker, if our economy was a person, it would have been insolvent a long time ago!

How is tech helping create more circular, more sustainable approaches and habits?

Technology can help us be more efficient in our resources and energy use. It can bring positive solutions to a wide audience very quickly and disrupt entire industries at a speed that was unimaginable even a few years ago. Just think of Too Good To Go, the app that allows you to buy food that would have otherwise been wasted, or Everwave, a company we’re partnering with, that cleans the world’s waters with an AI boat technology that efficiently sorts out and repurposes the trash.

And of course, the whole point of Faircado’s technology is to allow people to become actors of the circular economy in a super easy, cheap and convenient way. Just by choosing second-hand instead of new. I was excited to see in a recent report that 70% of consumers agree that it is getting easier to shop second-hand thanks to technology. Second-hand will soon be the first choice of every consumer, you’ll see!

Any challenges ahead?

Plenty! And it’s great. If it were easy, I wouldn’t be here. The challenge is what motivates me. Amazon has 2.3 billion monthly visitors; getting all of them to switch to second-hand won’t happen in a day. But we’ll get there. The arguments are just making too much sense for people to resist.

Is Faircado working in collaboration with any other actors/organisations? How can collaborative approaches help fuel the mission?

We love collaborations! Together with Everwave, we collect 1 kg of waste from the world’s waters for each download of the Faircado extension. We spent Black Friday this year cleaning the streets of Berlin from overconsumption together with the Litter Picker initiative. Faircado is a member of the Greentech Alliance and Leaders for Climate Action. We believe the industry doesn’t need more competition; it needs collaborations. It is the most effective way to create sustainable change, just like the European Union’s founding fathers (and mothers!) did it 70 years ago. Real change can only come from bringing people together.

What is the long-term aim of Faircado?

We are here to turn e-commerce into re-commerce. To contribute to a waste-free world by accelerating the switch from a linear to a circular economy. And to make second-hand every consumer’s first choice.

What positive trends/signs do you see unfolding?

Every new report on re-commerce makes us more positive about the future. The EU is moving towards stronger regulations on reuse and recycling, consumers are turning more and more to second-hand products, pushing traditional businesses (like Decathlon, IKEA, Zalando, etc.) to hop on the train of resale en masse, scared of missing it. It shows the power that people have when they decide to vote with their money. I love that!

Patricia Allen
Patricia Allen
is the Head of Content at EU-Startups. With a background in politics, Patricia has a real passion for how shared ideas across communities and cultures can bring new initiatives and innovations for the future. She spends her time bringing you the latest news and updates of startups across Europe, and curating our social media.
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