Burberry Receives Backlash for Burning $38 Million of Unsold Products

Getty Images for Burberry
Suki Waterhouse and Cara Delevingne

And online resale site thredUp is pushing back.

Burberry has come under fire for burning $38 million worth of unsold clothing and beauty products in order to protect its brand.

Many on social media have criticized the company for wastefully destroying clothing instead of putting it on sale or donating it to charitable cause, as part of a practice used by luxury brands to keep their products in the hands of only those who can afford it at full price.

Burberry’s annual report, released in June 2018, says, “The cost of finished goods physically destroyed in the year was £28.6m [about $37.8 million], including £10.4m of destruction for beauty inventory.” In 2017, they burned £26.9 million worth — all in the name of exclusivity.

An open letter posted Wednesday afternoon by online resale giant thredUp called out the British brand, saying, “We can’t afford to waste perfectly good clothes anymore. We are in the midst of an environmental crisis exacerbated by the fashion industry.” It claims the fashion industry causes 10 percent of global carbon emissions.

“Today we invite you to send any unsold Burberry product to thredUp for resale back into the circular economy, and we’ll donate 100 percent of the proceeds to the environmental charity of your choice.”

Carole Frances Lung-Bazile, an arts professor at California State University L.A., tells The Hollywood Reporter: "These acts of brand protection are not surprising, just another confirmation about capitalism and an economy based on constant consumption, which is a race to the bottom for labor and the environment."

Burberry says the energy that was released from burning the clothing was captured, making it environmentally friendly, the BBC reports.

“Burberry has careful processes in place to minimise the amount of excess stock we produce," a spokesperson tells THR. "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 organizations 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.”

Brand fans of Burberry include Cara Delevingne, Tom Holland, Suki Waterhouse, Zendaya, Keira Knightley, Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Lily James. Kanye and Kim Kardashian-loved designer Riccardo Tisci was recently appointed the new chief creative officer of the brand, and will debut his first runway collection for Burberry during September's London Fashion Week.

Twitter users also spoke up about the wastefulness and ethics of Burberry’s decisions, including actor Russell Brand, who wrote, “This makes you feel an odd sense of anguish and doom.” Others pointed out that many fashion brands follow suit, and Burberry doesn't deserve the sole blame for sticking to the status quo.