Burberry Stops Incinerating Clothing Launching ‘Responsibility Agenda’

The South China Morning post recently wrote a story “Where Burberry waste goes now British fashion brand isn’t burning clothes any more,” that got us thinking about large brands and positive spins on waste as a new harvest of sorts.

In July, Fortune wrote a different story about Burberry allegedly burning that same waste (more than $37.6 million of it) to stop counterfeiters from copying their styles. According to The Times, more than £90 million in Burberry products have been destroyed in the past five years. With the amount of natural resources and human bandwidth required to create all those things, it’s very limited in scope and respect for people and planet.

Burberry obviously caught on as SCMP writes that “Burberry declared on September 6th that it would no longer be destroying unused goods, effective immediately.” Investors and environmental groups furious after the news, pushed Burberry to change its tune. In fact, Burberry’s environmental commitment is now part of a five-year “responsibility agenda” that also includes a promise to no longer use real fur in its collections and phase out collections that already include real fur.

Marco Gobbetti, Burberry’s CEO says “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.”

Carmen Gama sorting through textile waste

We sent the article to Carmen Gama, Renew Designer at EILEEN FISHER to see what she thought about the news. Here’s what she had to say.

“I think it’s about time to hear that big fashion houses are becoming more responsible with all the pre and post-consumer waste their collections put out in the world. I am a huge fan of Burberry because I have a passion for urban outerwear, so really happy to see that they are recovering some of their pre-consumer waste and creating new products out of it. The real question here is what will they be doing with all the product that they are now going to accumulate due to banning the incineration? Will they use it as fabric to produce new garments, will they resell the good ones, will they shred it to make new fiber or will they simple downcycle it to be used as an insulator? Either way it’s a big step for them to start the commitment.

EILEEN FISHER’s Renew program

I agree with what Elvis and Kresse co-founder Kresse Wesling says in the article that in order for a company to take back any pre or post-consumer waste you need to have storage, creativity and be reactive to problems. However, the most important thing to have is a well sorted inventory. Either have an in-house sorting facility or outsource it, because when you are creating new goods out of recovered garments or factory cutting scraps you need to know exactly your inventory since your inventory informs design and not the other way around. This is also important because you need to keep track of the content of these scraps and garments for labeling purposes, which laws are very tough about on this matter. Lastly as important as the sorted inventory is to have ‘creativity’ and one that thinks outside the box. Because you are dealing with restrictions and challenges and for me that’s the most fun part of it. I truly believe that when someone works around restrictions is when real innovation happens.”

Read the full article on The South China Morning Post here.