What Burberry could have done, instead of burning excess product

Burberry decided to burn bags and clothing to preserve their brand, that means they needed a fast disposal method to avoid giving away their old products cheaper than the store prices. If that’s not bad enough, it’s no revelation to fashion insiders reports are emerging, apparently, its standard practice across the whole industry.

Burberry was quick to reply to BBC report saying that “burning” complied with environmental regulations. Really? that’s their best response.

I am not a clothing expert, say they had used raw materials like silk, cotton or wool, there are gone, ashes lost forever along with the emissions and adding to the embodied energy already burnt in the supply chain, manufacturing and transporting products.

It is fair to say the global community swiftly commended Burberry’s unsustainable solution.

It’s profligate waste by a company that also claims to be responsible, their web page responsibility states:

“…we are driving new approaches to some of the most pressing problems faced by our industry, and leading by example to champion more sustainable resources.”

I could not find any explanation or carbon emissions resulting from burning approx. 28.6 million British Pounds of product last year. It’s simply irresponsible, not responsible, to burn clothes that could be recycled. Burberry even has an advisory committee reporting:

We admire the company’s commitment to broader communication with all external stakeholders, to openly discuss challenges and celebrate progress and innovation.

Innovation mentioned again! and just in case the backlash causes the webpage to mysteriously change I think it is worth copying the names of Burberry’s advisory committee here:

Mark Sumner, Lecturer in Sustainability, Retail & Fashion, University of Leeds, Sally Uren, Chief Executive, Forum for the Future, Kresse Wesling, Co-Founder, Elvis & Kresse, Rachel Wilshaw, Ethical Trade Manager, Oxfam GB

Perhaps, Burberry advisors were kept in the dark

Incineration vs Innovative

Burberry is not alone, I think it really demonstrates “Big Business Think” glossy brochures and corporate websites proclaim laudable values, social responsibility, partnerships, and innovation. However, when faced with real challenges, they sought the quick and dirty option, incineration creating a new set of unavoidable environmental impacts.

Should we be surprised? Other big businesses have been caught on the wrong side of the law, VW, and more recently Mercedes, were caught programming their vehicles to pass Government emission tests, the Japanese Steel giant Kobe faked test results, its an epidemic.

 

What Could Burberry Have Done?

Could Burberry followed a different path, there are always options instead of their dirty approach, Burberry should have sought advice, perhaps shredding cloth, for sale or donated to charity, the recycled material could be used for padded jackets, bedding/duvet fill might be good options, or perhaps recycling material into raw thread for reuse.

Another report I read mentioned that Burberry jumpers were burnt, so those cashmere or wool materials are already lost forever. I get that Burberry didn’t want free or nearly free Burberry jumpers in charity shops, equally I don’t believe in the 21st century that knitwear can’t be unpicked, and the wool recycled. Wool is a great natural thermal insulator, the material could have been processed into woolen thermal insulation batts for the construction industry.

Of course, that was far too difficult, brands today comprise media managers, not innovators, if they order too much, no problem, no need to think, they’ll burn it, just like last year. #sustainability #incineration #burberry

 

Tree Hugging 2.0 by John A. Herbert

by John A. Herbert
Looking back over the last decade undoubtedly progress has been achieved, it cannot be denied, the relentless work of the few has moved the masses, that in turn increased corporations environmental awareness or has it?
tree-huge-800w

In the USA, Unilever removed water from their detergent, the concentrate requires less volume, less packing, costs less to produce, and ship. In the UK, Marks and Spencer created Plan A with the goal to source responsibly. In China it was announced that all government vehicles, including the City and Province administration, shall use alternative fuel by 2016, and many others have joined the clan. But some businesses never made it, indeed we might need an endangers species list for businesses, and I’d put travel agents high on that list to follow the Dodo. Businesses that once relied upon scarcity of information, like booking an oversea hotel, have been overtaken in the internet age, it is easy to book your entire trip with only your phone. I am sure you can think of a few business models that will soon be defunct due to the internet, equally businesses that operate unsustainably the writing is on the wall too.

And amidst the usual corporate alphabet soup CSR seems to be lost cause, surpassed by the appearance of ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) which is defined by the Financial Times as a generic term used in capital markets and used by investors to evaluate corporate behaviour and to determine the future financial performance of companies.

However, EMSD data reports the total annual energy consumption trend in Hong Kong continues to rise, which is disturbing and I find contradicts the great progress reported.

Unsurprisingly, listed corporations are hiring, but not energy managers as you might think, but ESG managers. Real sustainability demands action on energy period, there is no shortcut, without energy ESG managers are superfluous if there is no business to evaluate.

Firms to watch are those businesses that have already saved millions of dollars reducing costs and risk through sound energy planning.