Note: It worked! Once the word was out about their annual bonfire, thanks to influencers and social media, Burberry didn’t have a choice, they needed to respond to the mass outcry.  The result: within a few weeks, Burberry announced that they would no longer burn their luxury goods but will instead try to find alternative solutions.  

The world is changing, and luxury needs to pay attention.

Maybe it was once acceptable for luxury brands such as Burberry to burn unwanted stock worth £90m over a period of five years, but in this millennium, we notice when a brand destroys our planet.

And when we notice, we boycott until the problem is solved.

 

Although Burberry claims that they have taken actions to minimize the impact of their choice, many of us find it unforgivable to tolerate such waste, especially when the end goals is to preserve the brand value, to sharpen the brand positioning, to create scarcity and exclusivity, and to prevent theft and counterfeit.

If Burberry does not find a solution to prevent such waste in the future, they may find it hard to thrive or even possibly survive in the twenty-first century.

Through their unsustainable action, we believe that Burberry shows no respect for their products and the resources needed to produce them, no respect for their employees who have worked hard to grow the brand, no respect for their fans who are now questioning the value of their own Burberry goods, and obviously, no respect for the planet and our global community.

Burberry

Burberry is not the only fast luxury brand to destroy goods.

Richemont, which owns Cartier and Montblanc, has reportedly purchased back $744 million of its own unsold goods over the last few years to avoid the devaluation of their brands, some goods have been repurposed while others have been destroyed.

LVMH is also a culprit as are many others.

The problem of destroying over-production must be addressed, and solutions must be implemented.

Obviously, luxury brands must maintain their exclusivity to retain their status.

Donating the goods to shelters as many have suggested is not an option because it would devalue the brand in the eyes of those who covet its elite status.

But if Burberry paid attention to their community, they could easily find several alternatives that could help them lead the way to a sustainable future.

 

To help Burberry and other fashion luxury brands generate ideas to solve the overstock problem, here are a few sustainable alternatives to consider before burning beloved luxury goods.

#1: Leverage blockchain technology for better supply chain management

And when it comes to driving sales through community building, well… adopting blockchain technology leads to authenticity and transparency, two of the twelve New Luxury values found in our manifesto.

Since blockchain provides fingerprints of every step of the manufacturing process, it also provides a signature of authenticity to every product.

With blockchain, the records can be accessed and verified from virtually any location in the world at any time, making the authentication of counterfeit goods a seamless process – every time a product changes hands or is transferred to a new location, a transaction is stored in the ledger.

If a link if missing in the physical-digital chain, it could be the sign of someone attempting to divert authentic goods out or inserting counterfeit goods in.

Transparency with blockchain makes counterfeit evident and easily stoppable because it makes everyone involved accountable for their actions.

With such technology available, it is easy to understand why polluting our planet to prevent counterfeits is no longer a viable solution for any respectable brand.

Let’s remember that millennials, more than other generations, demand to know the story behind the products they buy.

Regardless of the industry, everyone is talking about blockchain for a good reason.

To explain it in simple terms, blockchain is like a giant decentralized and transparent Google Spreadsheet which is secured with cryptography.

It can store an entire history of transactions across a shared database, automating data gathering, reducing the human error factor out of tracking information, and eliminating waste across every step of a process.

 

The fact that Burberry needs to burn such a large quantity of stock every year implies that they do not fully understand their supply and demand chain.

If they implemented blockchain technology into their processes, we believe that they would be able to stop production early enough to avoid such excessive waste.

Or, at the very least, they would better manage their disposal.

With blockchain, a record of everything would explain the actions taken to find alternative emission reduction techniques to produce renewable energy and counter the effect of carbon emitted by them.

If the public is aware of the measures being taken by a brand to become sustainable, then a relationship of trust could start to flourish.

 

Luxury brands should lead the way in sustainability. Others will follow.

In addition to reducing counterfeits, blockchain transparency also carries customers closer to the stories behind the brand and its products, especially if they can use interactive labels to bring a new dimension to the shopping experience by linking the product to its source.

If you can prove what is great about your brand and your products with blockchain and transparency, you no longer need to claim to be luxury, you simply will be.

If Burberry doesn’t know where to start, they can simply look at the startup community to find inspiration.

 

For example, Provenance, a UK startup that hopes to build a future of brand trust with their transparency platform, uses blockchain, mobile and open data to help brands bring verified information from their supply chain to the point of sale.

Using their platforms, brands are then able to share their business impact and their values, open up their supply chain to showcase the people, places and processes behind every product, create a digital passport for every product linking them to either a batch or individual items, and ultimately drive customer engagement with tech-powered experiences and the use of interactive labels.

Provenance claims that bringing trustworthy information to the point of sale helps build brand trust now and into the future, something that is important to younger generations. We believe the same.

Idea developed with: Bhavna Jayashankar – Luxury Research & Consulting Intern here at Roxy Genier

Since adopting blockchain technology could take a few years to properly implement at Burberry or at any other fast luxury company, in the short term, we need alternative solutions that could have be implemented in a few weeks. Here are a few:

#2: Repurpose the luxury goods within Burberry or through third parties

If an inexperience chef boils too many lobsters one evening, he will serve it as lobster salad at tomorrow’s lunch.

Recycling and repurposing the overstock of luxury goods should not be discarded for its non-luxury status.

Burberry could start a new emerging designer program where it would donate its overstock to those who have the talent and desire to reimagine the extra Burberry garments in new ways.

This idea not-farfetched.

Since 2017, the Burberry Foundation has partnered with ethical and sustainable fashion brand Elvis & Kresse to tackle the global problem of leather waste.

n the next five years, the partnership will see a minimum of 120 tonnes of leather off-cuts from Burberry recrafted into new luxury items.

Burberry just needs to take this idea a step further and finds ways to reinvent their over-production by donating their extras to emerging designers.

#3: Keep the inventory, then in 20-30 years sell it as mint-vintage pieces

Everyone knows that fashion is cyclical, especially if you are older than thirty years old.

Patterns and styles that were hot when I was a teenager have already resurfaced time and time again.

Since Burberry is in the long-game, why not safeguard the beautiful garments, releasing them back to their fans as original mint-vintage pieces in a few decades?

Obviously, they shouldn’t keep over-producing year after year as they would not be able to store millions of pieces in their warehouses – we have already established that blockchain should be implemented to manage their supply chain.

But since the goods are already in existence, why not protect them for a future fashion coup? Fans would be delighted, other luxury brands would be jealous of the idea, and our planet would start to heal.

Original idea crowdsourced in a LinkedIn comment from: David Deluca – Office Manager at Logz.io

#4: Gift the goods to Burberry’s deserving employees, turning them into walking brand ambassadors

As a “global luxury retailer and manufacturer, with more than 10,000 employees, 449 retail locations and a supply chain that touches thousands of people worldwide”, Burberry could turn their over-production mistake into an opportunity to elevate the corporate culture.

By gifting the unpurchased goods in-house, they could turn 10,000 employees into 10,000 brand ambassadors, ambassadors that would have walked the streets of this world promoting the Burberry brand through their love for their employer.

Imagine the social media campaign, imagine the virality of the donation, imagine the elevated state of Burberry as a luxury brand in everyone’s mind.

Such an act would have turned a terrible PR moment into one that could have served as a case study for employee loyalty and success.

Original idea from: Vanessa Liwanag – Business Development Manager here at Roxy Genier

 

Luxury needs to care about sustainability and the values of New Luxury, because everyone who is listening to the global conversation already does.

Alternatives to burning unwanted goods do exist if management listens to their community and thinks outside the box.

If you know of other sustainable alternative to burning luxury goods when production surpasses demand, don’t hesitate to let everyone know in a comment below.

The more we talk about sustainability in luxury, the more we have a chance to save our planet.

So, talk on, and share on if you believe in luxury sustainability.

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