Business

Burberry stops burning unsold goods and using real fur

Burberry fashion show Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Burberry said it would expand efforts to donate or recycle unsold stock

British luxury goods maker Burberry has announced that it will stop the practice of burning unsold goods, with immediate effect.

The fashion label also said it would stop using real fur in its products, and would phase out existing fur items.

In July, an earnings report revealed that Burberry destroyed unsold clothes, accessories and perfume worth £28.6m in 2017 to protect its brand.

The news had led to an angry response from environmental campaigners.

At the time, the retailer said that 2017 had been unusual as it had to destroy £10m worth of old perfume products after signing a new deal with US firm Coty.

Fashion firms including Burberry destroy unwanted items to prevent them being stolen or sold cheaply.

'Much-needed sign'

Burberry said it already reused, repaired, donated or recycled unsold products, but it would continue to increase these efforts.

Environmental campaigning group Greenpeace told the BBC: "Burberry's decision to stop incinerating its overstock is a much-needed sign of a change of mind in the fashion industry.

"Because fashion is a high-volume business with more than 100 billion garments produced each year, consumers' closets are already overflowing with unworn clothes - creating an overstock problem for many companies.

"It's high time for the whole fashion industry to start dealing with overstock at its source: by slowing down production and re-thinking the way it does business."

Image copyright Getty Images

Burberry has started a partnership with sustainable luxury company Elvis & Kresse in the past year that will see 120 tonnes of leather off-cuts transformed into new products over the next five years.

At the same time, the fashion label has also established the Burberry Material Futures Research Group with the Royal College of Art to invent new sustainable materials.

"Modern luxury means being socially and environmentally responsible," said Burberry's chief executive Marco Gobbetti.

"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 Ellen Macarthur Foundation - which aims to eradicate waste in a host of sectors - said in a report published in 2015 that nearly three quarters (73%) of the 53 million tonnes of textiles and fibres produced globally every year end up either in landfill or incinerated.

Policy switch

Burberry currently uses rabbit, fox, mink and Asiatic racoon fur in its collections, but will stop using them in the future.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) foundation, which has long campaigned against the company, told the BBC it welcomed Burberry's decision.

"The few fashion houses refusing to modernise and listen to the overwhelming public opinion against fur are now sticking out like a sore thumb," Peta said.

"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."

Safia Minney, founder of sustainable clothing brand People Tree and managing director of ethical footwear brand Po-Zu, welcomed Burberry's move, but said both the industry and consumers could still to do more.

"We really need to be consuming way less. We need to be loving and treating our clothes better," she said.

"Fashion has become faster and faster and more and more disposable, with products actually not at all covering the true cost of their manufacture in terms of the environmental costs and human rights costs."

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