• Burberry has physically destroyed GBP28.6m (US$37.7m) worth of finished goods in 2018.
  • The British luxury brand says destruction of its stock is done in a "responsible manner".
Burberry said the cost of finished goods physically destroyed in the year was GBP28.6m

Burberry said the cost of finished goods physically destroyed in the year was GBP28.6m

British luxury brand Burberry has defended its decision to destroy more than GBP28m (US$36.8m) worth of finished goods in 2018, noting the firm does so in a "responsible manner".

According to its annual report, the monetary value of finished goods the firm physically destroyed in the last year was up 6.3% from GBP26.9m in 2017 to GBP28.6m (US$37.7m), including GBP10.4m of destruction for its beauty inventory.

The firm has come under fire on social media over its wastefulness, while one investor, speaking at Burberry's annual meeting earlier this month, asked why company stakeholders were not given the option of buying unsold options.

Outgoing chairman John Peace said destroying stock is "not something we do lightly" - a sentiment that was echoed by CFO Julie Brown who noted Burberry takes such decisions "extremely seriously", according to an article published by Bloomberg.

"Burberry has careful processes in place to minimise the amount of excess stock we produce," a company spokesperson told just-style. "On the occasions when disposal of products is necessary, we do so in a responsible manner and we continue to seek ways to reduce and revalue our waste.

"This is a core part of our responsibility strategy to 2022 and we have forged partnerships and committed support to innovative organisations to help reach this goal. One example is our partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's Make Fashion Circular Initiative, where we join other leading organisations to work towards a circular fashion economy."

The brand also works with Elvis & Kresse, donating its leather offcuts to the sustainable luxury company, which creates lifestyle accessories by re-engineering waste material through innovative craftsmanship. Half of the profits from the range are donated to charitable organisations promoting renewable energy.

"This supports a broader, five-year partnership between the Burberry Foundation and Elvis & Kresse, which aims to transform at least 120 tonnes of Burberry leather offcuts into a range of new products, designed and sold by Elvis & Kresse, and by doing so affect real change in the leather goods industry," Burberry says.

In its first few months, the partnership has already rescued about two tonnes of waste, it adds.

And Burberry isn't the only retailer to destroy finished goods.

Swedish fast fashion retailer H&M faced criticism last year after it was twice accused of incinerating unused clothes, rather than recycling them.

According to local media outlet SVT, H&M reportedly incinerated 19 tonnes of new clothes in Västerås in 2016. The amount is nearly twice what the retailer was accused of burning in Denmark in October and corresponds to around 50,000 pairs of jeans.

In a statement sent to just-style this week, the retailer said under no circumstances does it destroy clothes that are safe to use.

"Only products that have failed to fulfil safety regulations and cannot be re-used or recycled are sent for destruction, it is our legal obligation to remove potentially harmful products and our responsibility towards our customers," H&M added. "It is very rare that we would need to send clothes for destruction and this would only ever occur as an absolute last resort."

According to the retailer's sustainability report, such products may have failed chemical safety tests or may have been contaminated by mould during transportation.

Meanwhile, H&M claims that thanks to its preventative work, together with its suppliers, the number of clothes sent for destruction is decreasing every year, with 0.055% of its total product assortment destroyed in 2017 due to products being unsafe.  

"We have strict chemical regulations and our goal is to eliminate those chemicals that we have identified as hazardous from our production at the latest by 2020," it said.

In addition, Nike and Urban Outfitters have also previously faced backlash for destroying goods, with Nike admitting one of its New York stores slashed unsold trainers before dumping them in the rubbish, and an employee of Urban Outfitters claiming last year that he was told to "pour green paint on unsold Toms shoes", according to The Times. 

Neither Nike or Urban Outfitters responded to just-style's request for comment at the time of going to press.