You may have seen in the news this week that the fashion brand Burberry have been burning their unsold stock in recent years. Actually, over £90 million worth over the last five years. For me, it’s prompted two questions: why are they doing this, and what can we do to help them towards a better way?
Firstly the why.
Well it’s not uncommon for brands to burn excess stock actually. H&M were doing it last year and trying to pass it off as environmentally-friendly. I’m not convinced.
The rationale is a little odd, but Burberry specifically are trying to stop their items being sold for cheaper than they should be, and through unofficial channels. They’re trying to protect their designs and styles from being devalued, and maintain the exclusivity which comes with the Burberry name in particular.
That’s all well and good, but why do they choose to burn them rather than recycle them or donate them to charity?
This isn’t so clear… but it seems to all comes down to money. It’s more expensive for a business to recycle their waste, than it is to simply burn it or dump it into landfill, so like in most business cases – money ultimately wins.
The first thing I want to say about our response to this is that it’s ok for us to be angry.
Needlessly burning useful things is clearly not a helpful practice for our planet. Not only is burning the clothes causing the release of CO2 into our atmosphere, but it is also feeding into the idea that the things we own are ‘disposable’. This is a classic case of wasting resources which could be better spent, and of a wealthy corporation putting profit before people and the planet.
It’s right for us to see the injustice here and be outraged about it.
What do we do with that outrage? Well I think we can find ways to hold Burberry to account.
We might firstly want to sign this petition started by the brilliant author and sustainable living advocate Tara Button.
Let’s also hold the brands we buy from to account – this practice of burning clothes is likely to be more widespread than just these two brands. Why not tag a brand you buy from on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtags #YouReuseOrWeRefuse and #FashionWithCompassion and ask them what they do with their old stock (don’t forget to tag us @WeAreTearfund too so we can see what they say!).
2. RECYCLE BETTER
We then might want to consider our own wardrobe, and how we can stop the clothes we don’t need anymore from going to waste. Whether this is making sure they go to a charity shop, or recycling. It’s a strange contradiction but H&M also have a scheme where you can take clothes from any brand in any condition into any store for them to be reused or recyled, and you get awarded with a voucher. The fact that H&M both burns clothes and has a recycling scheme is a prime example of how hard it can be to negotiate the world of fashion.
3. BUY BETTER
We might also want to consider the wider implications of supporting brands like Burberry, and so choose to buy second-hand in the future, or from ethical fashion brands who put people, planet and animals before profit. I’d recommend heading over to Thought, Know the Origin, People Tree and Brothers We Stand to get you started.
However you choose to act, do it worshipping God and knowing that He loves it when we play our part, no matter how big or small, in bringing about justice.