In 2017, the British luxury brand Burberry burned over $37 million worth of unsold clothes, perfumes, bags, and other goods.
And over the past five years, they've reportedly incinerated over $117 million worth.
The luxury brand intentionally destroys their surplus products as an attempt to help protect their brand and stock. According to the BBC, Burberry has been making serious efforts to make their goods appear as exclusive commodities after an uptick of counterfeit items have hit the gray market.
"The reason they are doing this is so that the market is not flooded with discounts," Maria Malone, a fashion business professor at Manchester Metropolitan University, told the BBC. "They don't want Burberry products to get into the hands of anyone who can sell them at a discount and devalue the brand."
But the exposure of this practice has people furious.
Clearly, the brand's priorities can and should be called into question, and people spoke out on social media.
There are people out there who can barely afford clothes and Burberry burnt £28 million worth of product because of… https://t.co/drgLdFwNrE— Shelly Stark (@Shelly Stark) 1532002925.0
Burberry physically destroyed finished products worth $38 million in the past fiscal year. Some of its shareholders… https://t.co/B12peqzSXX— The Business of Fashion (@The Business of Fashion) 1531763706.0
£28.6m worth of clothes destroyed by Burberry, including jumpers and coats. In the year we had the coldest winter… https://t.co/xe7ztlqHZL— Dominic McGregor (@Dominic McGregor) 1531999457.0
Burberry definitely could've addressed this issue in ways that didn't involve completely destroying their products.
1. They could've slowed production.
While Burberry insisted that "the energy generated from burning its products was captured" — meaning it was done in a supposedly green way — at least a few environmental activists have criticized Burberry for wasting the natural resources used to make their products in the first place.
Lu Yen Roloff, an activist from Greenpeace, said that one way they could've prevented this is by slowing production of items rather than overproducing and destroying the excess.
"Despite their high prices, Burberry shows no respect for their own products and the hard work and natural resources that are used to made them," Roloff told the BBC. "The growing amount of overstock points to overproduction, and instead of slowing down their production, they incinerate perfectly good clothes and products."
2. They could've de-branded and donated the goods to charity.
Others on Twitter suggested that by altering the appearance of their items, Burberry would be able to protect itself from cheapening the brand or enabling counterfeiters.
@SkyNews I get why @burberry would want to protect their brand image by destroying products rather than donate them… https://t.co/fxUdZ1VHF7— dom. (@dom.) 1532000379.0
3. They could've garnered positive publicity by donating to charity.
While this may come off as unsavory, it's still a more conscious alternative to burning. Burberry could've simply donated their items to homeless shelters and other charitable organizations. The PR from such an act would have certainly attracted public attention — and more profit.
@Inkydom @SkyNews @Burberry The alternative is to donate stock to particular charity outlets - specific stores - an… https://t.co/SHPBTQ3noj— Philip Priestley 🇪🇺🇮🇪 (@Philip Priestley 🇪🇺🇮🇪) 1532016548.0
Burberry isn't the only brand that uses this practice, but let's hope they see the backlash and consider changing their ways.
Both Chanel and Louis Vuitton have intentionally destroyed their unwanted items to help make their brands remain "exclusive." But in a time where more people are grappling with poverty, food insecurity, and homelessness, these fashion brands should be aware of what kind of message they're sending.
Let's hope they recognize that their impact on the world matters.