Tern Eco: supporting SME retailers on their journey to circularity

Innovation Fund Winner

Fully closing the loop through the development of a plug and play solution that supports multiple circular models—from reuse to resale.

Why this program?

  • Thousands of tons of unnecessary waste are created each year in the UK alone. The circular economy aims to minimize waste by keeping products, materials, and resources in use for as long as possible; reducing the 80% of product that is currently going to landfill or being incinerated. 
  • The transition to Net Zero is not only imperative for the health of the planet and our collective future, it also presents an incredible opportunity for economic growth with significant business benefits: from cost reduction and competitive differentiation, to driving sales, brand advocacy and customer growth. 
  • Circularity is expected to be adopted by 25% of businesses within the next 7 years; offering an accessible, affordable solution will enable MSE and SME retailers to make the critical shift from a linear to a circular model.

Program overview

Retail is changing, sustainability is top of the agenda, and retailers must adopt circular models to retain their customers and grow their business. SMEs make up 99% of the global retail population, but existing solutions aren’t designed for small businesses, nor do they give the retailer ownership over product or customer; both of which are required for long-term, sustainable growth. 

The current Tern Eco solution automates trade-in for SME retailers: enabling their customers to exchange their preowned items for store credit and collecting valuable data related to the lifecycle of pre-owned product and related customer behaviours. But trade-in is only the start.  

Support from the Strive Community Innovation Fund will allow Tern Eco to further develop their services and fully close the loop for SME retailers through multiple circular business models – repairs, refills, resale, upcycling and recycling.

Through the data generated, and aggregated across merchants, consumers and product verticals, Tern will be able to build a comprehensive view of the full lifecycle of products and identify emerging market and consumer trends – data we plan to share with the wider retail community through whitepapers, roundtables and the ‘How To’ guides we create as part of this project. 



About Tern Eco 

Tern Eco powers circular retail; enabling brand-owned programmes that meet sustainability goals and business objectives.  

An incredibly easy to use retail tech solution, the Tern software has been designed specifically for retailers to deliver profitable growth through circular models that drive customer engagement and future proof businesses within this rapidly changing landscape.

Integrating within a brand’s own website, the Tern service is available globally, works for (nearly) any product, and is priced to be both affordable and accessible for retailers of any size. 

Their aim is to make circularity the norm, something every retailer can offer, and every customer should expect.

Tern was created to help deliver circular retail at scale, for maximum impact, by democratizing circularity. The MSE and SME community represents close to 99% of all retailers globally but they are massively underserved in this space currently. We’re really excited about this opportunity to further support small businesses on their journey to circularity – and couldn’t think of better, more strategic partners than Strive Community and Mastercard to work with on this project - winning this grant will be a huge step towards us achieving our vision, and to ensuring that MSEs are able to help drive this major economic transformation.

Zoe Rowswell

Co-founder, Tern Eco

Implementation partners

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Tern Eco: Making circularity easy for micro- and small businesses

This post is authored by Zoe Rowswell and Kate Walmsley, co-founders of Tern Eco, and Grace Natabaalo from Mastercard Strive.
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