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Forward and reverse logistics: What's the difference?

- 8 minute read

Forward and reverse logistics tend to be buzzwords related to eCommerce. Supply chains and logistics have felt the impact due to the demands and as the burden heightens, it’s challenging for suppliers to minimize grievances, offer a great customer experience or tackle sales difficulties. That’s why companies simplify logistics into two buckets — forward and reverse logistics.

However, forward and reverse logistics stretch beyond eCommerce, impacting the likes of ITAD too. This blog will outline the differences between the two and highlight why reverse logistics is the more conscious and commercially viable option.


The difference between forward and reverse logistics

Forward logistics is all about managing goods from their raw forms to the consumers. This forward movement sees value added to each product as it advances through every step of the supply chain journey. Think along the lines of pick and pack services and direct order fulfillment.

As the name suggests, reverse logistics is the opposite, where you reverse the direction of where the product moves — back to warehouses. When products are returned, they might become inventory once more if they’re in good condition or could be donated, recycled, reused or discounted depending on their condition.

But reverse logistics isn’t limited to the eCommerce world. When products are at the end of their lifecycle, reverse logistics can reduce the amount of waste by extending the life of IT equipment and electronics by upcycling parts and components — and refurbishing them.

The problem is that not many are aware of the steps involved when a device reaches end of life. Once they’re replaced, then what? At TES, we have a way to solve this. Watch the video using the button below on how you can switch your focus to reusing assets rather than only recycling them.

Watch the video now

Before diving deeper into the role of reverse logistics in ITAD, here’s a quick breakdown of the differences between forward and reverse logistics.


Comparison criteria

Forward logistics

Reverse logistics



Much more complex

Process visibility

More transparent

Less transparent


A significant consideration

Not a priority




Distribution points





Dependent on several factors


Well-known methods

Unclear methods


Clear destination routing

Unclear destination routing

Product quality

Uniformity in quality

Lack of uniformity in quality

Inventory management




Visible costs

Less visible costs


Uniform and in order

Damaged or in poor condition


Reverse logistics in ITAD

Whenever you refresh or send IT equipment like laptops or mobile devices, there will always be plans and budgets in place for aspects such as tracking and shipping. This is forward logistics. Reverse logistics is the opposite — the process of managing the collection, shipping and tracking of returns, retiring or recycling assets to their next destination or redeploying them.

Reverse logistics is the more viable option due to its links with sustainability. When reverse logistics is managed just as carefully in ITAD as forward logistics, you can:

  • Reduce your impact on the environment
  • Minimize hassle for staff members
  • Save money
  • Ensure good data on the final disposition of every asset within your asset lifecycle management system

What makes reverse logistics more critical in ITAD are aspects such as collecting assets from devices, storage, hard drive information, packing and shipment. These are all complex processes. Not to mention at the end, where assets are processed for repairs, recycling, redeployment or resell. Here, reverse logistics aims to provide the most resource and cost-efficient processes throughout this journey.

Doing this alone can be complex, so organizations should work with ITAD and e-waste partners. A reverse logistics provider will ensure your ITAD solutions don’t violate any laws, they have the relevant certifications and comply with standards, such as ISO 9001:2008, NIST 800-88, R2, ISO 14001 and more.

Reverse logistics is all about optimum and efficient tracking throughout the ITAD process. Without a reverse logistics provider, there’s every chance you could lose money due to missing equipment, errors in serial numbers or even data breaches.

Reverse logistics providers remove all of your responsibilities in the process so you can focus on your day-to-day and minimize the risk of losing money.

You also need to think about the location and time of where assets are going. Values can decline over time and multiple stops mean significant time is added to the reverse logistics cycle. The result? Lost value for your business. The sooner devices and assets can get to market, the more you receive in return.


What are we doing at TES?

Recycling and reducing e-waste through ITAD processed equipment are more areas where reverse logistics prove to be beneficial. The planet doesn’t feature an endless supply of resources and every piece of equipment a business throws away, it takes another from the world’s finite resources.

Reverse logistics tackles this and helps you become more conscious of the environment. The process involved in reverse logistics means you can dispose of assets appropriately and ensure your business continues to grow in the future.

This is by no means an easy task. It’s complex and the make-up of IT assets and hardware means you need constant innovation to ensure as many materials as possible can be recovered from the hardware. At TES, it’s our duty to align our actions with our ethos, vision and mission.

We want to be a global sustainability leader, determined to make a difference by safely and sustainably re-purposing one billion kilograms of assets by 2030. If we can protect, provide and preserve, then we’re confident we’re doing our part to take care of people, planet and profit.

Creating a circular economy in ICT


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