In a bid to avoid tarnishing its brand, Burberry ended up tarnishing its brand.
The U.K. company, known for fashionable clothes, perfumes and more, has made headlines by incinerating millions in overstock rather than allowing its products to fall into the wrong hands.
“Burberry has careful processes in place to minimise the amount of excess stock we produce. 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,” a spokesperson for the company said.
The FTSE 100 company said last year was unusual as it had to destroy a large amount of perfume after signing a new deal with US firm Coty.
The move drew criticism from consumers who see the burning of the overstock a waste—and environmentally irresponsible.
There are people out there who can barely afford clothes and Burberry burnt £28 million worth of product because of complete snobbery. Rich people make me want to throw up.
— Shellyð³ï¸ð (@shelly_tompkins) July 19, 2018
Burberry: no, we won’t give our surplus stock to charity, because we don’t care about poor people, (and tarnishes our brand) but we will incinerate it in an ‘environmentally friendly way’ – you know what would’ve been the most environmentally friendly thing?! Giving it to charity
— •lina• (@agirlcalledlina) July 19, 2018
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Others say the practice is widespread:
This is a very common practice in the luxury industry (and in fact the entire fashion sector). Burberry is far from alone. https://t.co/z6S4EM8BQL
— Elizabeth Paton (@LizziePaton) July 19, 2018
Others vowed to shop elsewhere:
It’s utterly disgraceful that #Burberry would rather burn it’s product than do something useful with them. #ForShame I will never buy another Burberry product as long as I shall live. pic.twitter.com/74oLdwaCi9
— NinaChomskyLuchadora #SaveOurNHS #LBOM (@NinaWonderGirl) July 19, 2018
Burberry says it captured the energy from the burn, making the move environmentally friendly, according to the BBC. However, many activists aren’t buying it.
“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,” said Lu Yen Roloff of Greenpeace.
“The growing amount of overstock points to overproduction, and instead of slowing down their production, they incinerate perfectly good clothes and products.
“It’s a dirty secret of the fashion industry. Burberry is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.
Burberry has asserted that the destruction of the stock was intended to thwart counterfeiters.
Fashionunited.co.uk reported that Burberry does not have complete control over its brand in different markets and so foreign factories can tamper with design copyright.
“Hence, to retain brand equity, luxury companies decide to destroy or buy back their collections to ensure it doesn’t re-enter the marketplace,” it said.
However, Burberry and other luxury fashion brands have a problem convincing consumers that their business practices aren’t wrongheaded. Even consumers who could understand the logic of the move condemned it for its wastefulness.
I don’t find this shocking — of course Burberry and others burn stock — but I do find it disgusting. Waste and pollution just to preserve the artificial sense of scarcity these brands rely on https://t.co/2fj8WvZ5o6
— Mic Wright (@brokenbottleboy) July 19, 2018
If the fashion is to burn Burberry, I suggest everyone does so, and does not replace it. When a company is so morally bankrupt that they deem protecting the brand more important than aiding humanity, you have to ask, what’s wrong with those people?
— Benjamin Langley (@B_J_Langley) July 19, 2018
The fallout could be a big problem for these companies, as data show that consumers increasingly want the brands they buy to stand for positive change in their community.
How would you advise Burberry and other luxury brands to rehab their reputation?