I should start out by saying that Burberry is one of many major brands that destroys products that they do not want in circulation. At UPS, for example, when a package car (aka delivery truck) is taken out of service, it is brought to a junkyard where it is demolished in front of a UPS employee who certifies the disposal of that vehicle.

I worked for UPS in their Industrial Engineering department for three years right after college. Even though I was young, I remember asking one of my colleagues why they would destroy their old vehicles rather than sell them on the secondary market. I sited that anyone who has grown up in the United States is accustomed to seeing faded, old, dinged up former U-Haul trucks and United States Forest Service vehicles on the road for generations after they are no longer needed. My colleague reminded me that UPS runs their trucks into the ground, so when they are no longer needed, they no longer have value. Also, UPS is huge on branding and doesn’t want a non-company vehicle that appears to be a package car to tarnish their brand in any way.

When you actually think about this, completely taking a item out of service that has absolutely no value left in it is necessary. I know we’d like to think that donating it or selling it second hand is the right thing to do, but in most cases, if it still works, we should probably still be using it.

I brought up this example of a UPS practice because it is relevant to this BBC article I read titled, “Burberry burns bags, clothes and perfume worth millions.” I really don’t like calling out brands, but I think this is an opportunity to for them to really reassess how they brand themselves.

In the last five years Burberry has burned £90 million ($117.13 million) of their products in order to “protect” their brand. The rational is that if they keep less desirable products on the market they will need to lower the price of those products to sell them. In doing so they believe they will lower the overall quality of their brand.

As I mentioned, brands do this all the time. I work in the municipal solid waste industry and can tell you that “certified disposal” is practice that a lot of brands utilize. This means that their waste hauler certifies that they disposed of their customers’ products, meaning they confirmed that the products were definitely dumped into a landfill or incinerator. The manufacturers do this for a few reasons: First, by receiving confirmation of disposal, they can probably write the destruction of perfectly good products off as a loss. Second, they have a guarantee that their products were destroyed and won’t show up in secondary markets.

This is the part of the article that got me worked up:

“Burberry said that the energy generated from burning its products was captured, making it environmentally friendly.

‘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.”

Burberry, I have news for you, burning perfectly good merchandise because you did a bad job forecasting demand is not environmentally friend nor is it socially or environmentally responsible. Plain and simple.

The Zero Waste International Alliance is the only organization with an internationally recognized definition of zero waste. They clearly state that to achieve zero waste you can not bury, burn or create toxic emissions. Burning waste (and this, I should add was not waste but brand new products), even when energy is created is not an environmentally responsible practice. Period.

If Burberry or any brand, big or small, is interested in developing a Corporate Social Responsibility plan that maintains the balance between people, planet and profit.

To read the full definition of zero waste please visit the Zero Waste International Alliance.

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