- Burberry revealed in an earnings report in July that it had destroyed $37 million worth of unsold clothes and accessories in order to protect its brand.
- The news sparked an outcry on social media as some angry customers called the practice unethical and not environmentally friendly.
- On Thursday, Burberry CEO Marco Gobbetti said in a statement to the press that the company would no longer burn unsold items or use real fur.
Burberry is changing course in the wake of backlash.
In July, the luxury British retailer revealed in an earnings report that it had destroyed $37 million worth of unsold clothes and accessories in order to protect its brand.
The news sparked an outcry on social media as some angry customers called the practice unethical and not environmentally friendly.
Back in 2005 Burberry said this was their worst nightmare as a brand. You can bet this was done specifically to stop it being sold at a discount and potentially end up in the hands of working class people. They would rather burn it then let the poor get ahold of it. Sick really.
— Dr Sammie ???????????????????????????????? (@curexcomplex) July 19, 2018
the fact that Burberry burnt almost $40 million worth of clothes & beauty is disgusting to me. that could’ve been donated to women’s shelters & to people that need clothes & such & to people that need that to get jobs & to get on their feet but nope, let’s burn it all like jerks
— Amanda Landingham (@amandilandi) July 19, 2018
We have people who cannot afford to clothe themselves or their children and yet a clothing manufacturer burns unsold stock.
I’ll not buy @Burberry again.
Not that I ever have but …#justsaying https://t.co/aAJYIU3URa
— mike john (@wmjohn) July 19, 2018
Online resale company ThredUp weighed in on the debate, writing an open letter to the brand.
“The world can’t afford to waste perfectly good clothes anymore. We are in the midst of an environmental crisis exacerbated by the fashion industry,” it said.
— thredUP (@thredUP) July 25, 2018
On Thursday, Burberry said in a statement that it would stop burning unsold items and no longer use real fur.
“Modern luxury means being socially and environmentally responsible. This belief is core to us at Burberry and key to our long-term success. We are committed to applying the same creativity to all parts of Burberry as we do to our products,” CEO Marco Gobbetti said.
As ThredUp noted in its letter, Burberry isn’t the only offender here. Other luxury brands including Chanel and Louis Vuitton have also burned unsold items to preserve the exclusivity of their labels.
H&M also came under fire for a similar practice when it emerged that the fast-fashion retailer had sent unsold clothing to a power plant in Sweden, where the clothing was burned instead of coal to create energy. H&M said at the time that the burned items did not include usable clothing – only clothing that was unsafe for consumers.
Fashion is now the second-most polluting industry after oil, according to The World Economic Forum. It now only takes 2,700 liters of water to produce a T-shirt, but much of the clothing created often ends up being wasted. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, 26 billion pounds of textiles end up in a landfill each year.