Why fashion brands burn millions of pounds of clothes

Burberry becomes first major company to officially end practice of destroying unsold goods

(Image credit: Getty Images)

British luxury goods maker Burberry has announced that it will no longer burn its unsold clothes, bags and perfume, following a backlash over the deliberate destruction of unwanted stock.

An earnings report in July revealed that the company destroyed £28.6m of unsold goods in 2017 alone, in order to “protect its brand” - prompting “an angry response from environmental campaigners”, the BBC reports.

That takes the total value of items destroyed by Burberry over the last five years to £105m, The Guardian reports. The fashion brand “previously defended its practice by saying that the energy generated from burning its goods was captured”.

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Not everyone was shocked by the scale of the destruction in the luxury goods sector. “The news has left investors and consumers outraged but comes as little surprise” to those in the fashion industry, where the practice of destroying unsold clothes and material is “commonplace”, says Forbes.

“Becoming too widely available at a cheaper price through discount stores discourages full-price sales and sending products for recycling leaves them vulnerable to being stolen and sold on the black market,” the business magazine explains.

Burberry says it will now recycle, repair or donate all unsellable items, becoming the first major company to announce an official end to the practice of destroying unwanted products.

Marco Gobbetti, the fashion brand’s chief executive, said: “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.”

The company also announced that it will stop using real fur for its products. It currently uses rabbit, fox, mink and Asiatic racoon fur in its collections.

Campaign group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) welcomed the move, saying: “The few fashion houses refusing to modernise and listen to the overwhelming public opinion against fur are now sticking out like a sore thumb.

“If they want to stay relevant in a changing industry, they have no choice but to stop using fur stolen from animals for their coats, collars, and cuffs.”

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