by James Morales

Luxury brand Burberry destroyed more than £28 million worth of fashion and cosmetics products last year, including bags, clothes, and perfumes.

The figures, which made headlines this month, indicate that the value of the label’s waste is almost six times greater than in 2013, with more than £90 million worth of Burberry products being destroyed over the past five years.

The revelation has sparked a conversation about waste in the fashion industry, where the burning of excess stock is common practice. Swiss watchmaker Richemont have also admitted to destroying more than £400 million of designer timepieces over the past two years, while several newspapers have reported that a Swedish power plant burnt unsold H&M stock as fuel.

The official line for such companies is that they destroy unsold products to protect their intellectual property. Burberry claims that it only destroys items that carry its trademark in an effort to prevent counterfeiters.

Despite this it is widely believed that the principle reason for destroying products is to prevent overstocked items from being sold at a reduced price, which might damage a brand’s exclusive image.

Since the news hit the headlines, Burberry has faced a barrage of criticism from environmentalists. Calls have
even been made for an inquiry by the Environment Agency into potential breaches of UK regulations aimed at minimising waste.

In a statement, the company said that “Burberry has careful processes in place to minimise the amount of excess stock we produce… and we continue to seek ways to reduce and revalue our waste.”

Having recently joined the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative, as well as announcing an upcoming collaboration with Vivienne Westwood which will support the rainforest charity Cool Earth, it would appear that Burberry is at least talking up its green credentials.

But none of this has stopped environmentalists from criticising the practice of burning stock. “Burberry shows no respect for their own products and the hard work and natural resources that are used to made them,” Green Peace’s Lu Yen Roloff told the BBC.

In a time when consumers are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of the clothes and brands they wear, the uproar over these recent revelations indicates that more than token gestures are needed. Burberry will need to start putting its money where its mouth is and end overproduction if it is to avoid further waste and public furore.

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