Black Friday: Brands opt out for environment reasons

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Girl walks past large Black Friday signsImage source, Getty Images/Alex McBride
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Black Friday sales offer customers significant discounts

More than 300 clothing brands are asking shoppers not to buy anything in the Black Friday sales because of environmental reasons.

The Make Friday Green Again collective says discount deals encourage people to purchase things they don't need.

They say this "overproduction" contributes to climate change.

Instead, it wants shoppers to spend 29 November this year looking in their wardrobes at what items they can repair, sell or recycle.

But the British Retail Consortium argued the day allowed consumers to buy products they might not otherwise be able to afford.

'Make Friday Green Again'

The collective, made up of predominantly French brands, was started by Nicolas Rohr, one of the co-founders of eco-friendly, clothing company, Faguo.

"When people buy something, we pollute because of the carbon emissions that come from making that product, from using it and then getting rid of that product," he said.

"Today we don't buy what we need; we buy because we are tempted.

"We are not in a good relationship with consumption any more.

"We want people to focus on what they already have in their wardrobes then, if you really need something more you can buy it."

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What is Black Friday?

Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, when many retailers run special promotions for 24 hours, to get people buying presents for Christmas.

It's a concept which started in the US and takes place the day after the American holiday of Thanksgiving.

The savings can be so significant that it can crash websites and see shoppers queuing up days in advance for bargains.

It gets its name because it's often the day many stores move "into the black" - which means they start making more money than they have to spend.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A packed Grafton Street in Dublin on Black Friday in 2018

Is Black Friday bad for the environment?

Everything we buy doesn't just cost money, it has an environmental cost too. This depends on how it was made, what it was made from, how far it's been transported and what happens to it at the end of its life.

The argument from the collective is that the less you buy, the smaller your environmental footprint. It could also save you money.

Dr Patsy Perry, a senior lecturer in fashion marketing from the University of Manchester, said: "[Black Friday] is a great time to take advantage of discounts but it goes against what we're trying to do with sustainability.

"On the one hand, retailers are increasingly talking about sustainability now and all the good stuff they're doing but, on the other hand, it feels like they're encouraging people to keep buying more stuff."

She added: "Deep discounts communicate something to the consumer in terms of what that product is worth.

"I think, increasingly, we'll see more businesses saying they don't want to be part of this [Black Friday]."

Start of 'golden quarter of retail'

The British Retail Consortium has defended shops taking part in Black Friday.

Its chief executive, Helen Dickinson, said: "Involvement... is a commercial decision by retailers. Such sales allow consumers to access many goods they might not otherwise be able to afford, particularly with Christmas around the corner.

"After a year of stagnant sales, many retailers will be looking for Black Friday to give a welcome boost as they enter the 'Golden Quarter' of retail."

But Mr Rohr said Make Friday Green Again isn't about blaming brands or shoppers, but making us more aware of how we can live more sustainably.

"The last two years we made great sales - 5% of our annual turnover - but we didn't feel comfortable with it," he explained.

"I know I will lose turnover compared to my competitors but I will accept it because my interest is in the future [of the planet]. We need to have the courage to change things even if we have to sacrifice some turnover.

"I would prefer that the brands offer a good price all year round. We do it for our generation and our planet".