Outcry over destroyed stock was 'turning point' for Burberry

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
7 November 2019

The public outcry over luxury brands throwing away unsold stock was a “turning point” for Burberry.

Beverley Tew, vice president, finance, at Burberry, said staff at the company were “horrified” when it emerged unsold stock worth millions was being destroyed.

Speaking at the CIPS Annual Conference Tew said: “It’s something all luxury brands did and still do: it was better to destroy the product rather than sell it more cheaply.

“The outcry was a turning point for Burberry. The people that work there who didn’t realise that happened were horrified. People want to work in organisations that care about the environment.”

In 2018 Burberry announced it would end the practice of destroying “unsaleable” products. Company results showed the firm destroyed goods worth £28.6m in the year to March 2018, compared to £26.9m in 2017 and £18.8m in 2016.

Tew said producing a large handbag could require the use of an entire cowhide. Previously the offcuts were thrown away but Burberry is now working with a company that turns them into new products.

“We live in a world of fast fashion. People want to buy what they see, wear it and throw it away, and it ends up in landfill. It’s a real challenge,” she said.

“We know what the problems are; it’s how we grapple with them that doesn’t damage the industry.

“We won’t sell products to anyone these days if we don’t care about our responsibilities.”

Tew said Burberry designed products that in some cases were meant to last a lifetime and it was examining how products were manufactured and all stages of the supply chain.

“We do what we can to partner with other fashion organisations to ensure we are acting responsibly,” she said.

During a panel discussion on responsible procurement, Andrew Haynes, procurement director at Heathrow Airport, said the planned third runway had made sustainability a “business critical activity”.

He said they had to “change the way we think about running our operations and the supply chain”, including carbon reduction, effect on the local community, congestion, air pollution and paying the London Living Wage.

Haynes said Heathrow’s overdraft rate was connected to its sustainability agenda, with the cost going up or down depending on KPIs.

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