Environmental groups have called on the fashion sector to scale back production amid the news that Burberry deliberately destroys stock worth millions every year.
The upmarket clothing line, famous for its checked design, has destroyed £90m worth of products in the past five years, The Times reports.
The practice, understood to be rife throughout the sector, “means unwanted items cannot fall into the hands of counterfeiters or find their way onto other shelves or websites”, says Sky News.
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In the case of Burberry, trademark items from coats and bags to perfume are frequently incinerated, although the company insists the procedure is done with specialist incinerators that harness the energy from the process.
“Burberry has careful processes in place to minimise the amount of excess stock we produce. On the occasions when disposal of products is necessary, we do so in a responsible manner and we continue to seek ways to reduce and revalue our waste,” a spokesperson for the company said.
Recently, Burberry has been working hard to ensure the exclusivity of its brand after counterfeiters began “sticking the Burberry check on anything they could”, Maria Malone, principal lecturer on the fashion business at Manchester Metropolitan University told the BBC.
According to Malone, destroying unwanted products is part of that process.
“The reason they are doing this is so that the market is not flooded with discounts,” Malone said.
“They don't want Burberry products to get into the hands of anyone who can sell them at a discount and devalue the brand.”
Burberry are not alone in the practice with Swiss watchmaker Richemont also admitting to destroying more than £400 million of designer timepieces over the past two years to avoid them being sold at discount prices.
Luxury brands including Chanel and Louis Vuitton also burn or destroy unsold stock, while the London Evening Standard reports that H&M has “previously sent unsold stock to the Swedish city of Vasteras where it was burnt instead of coal to generate electricity”.
Mike Childs, from Friends of the Earth, told Sky News: “Burning clothes is a shocking waste of resources, showing no regard for people in the UK who have to scour charity shops to put a shirt on their back, nor to the millions overseas living in poverty.”
“Time and time again parts of the fashion industry (are) exposed as having little concern for the welfare of the planet or the poorest people on it.”
“The industry has to come clean on its practices and clean up its act.”
But “before consumers get too self righteous,” notes The Times “they ought perhaps to examine their own consciences”. Last year alone, the paper notes, Britons “binned £12.5 billion of clothes last year, sending 300,000 tonnes to landfill”.
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