Going green may mean giving up artificial scarcity for luxury brands

in October 28th, 2021

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Ever wonder what happens to all the unsold inventory at a major brand? They discard them. To maintain product exclusivity, some brands even go to extreme lengths. Up until recently, luxury brand Coach slashed bags, cut shoe straps, and ripped jackets before tossing. And up until 2018, Burberry burned unsold goods.

What got them to stop? In the case of Burberry, environmentalists took to social media to broadcast the over $36 million in clothes and perfume the company destroyed in 2017. More recently with Coach, a TikTok influencer who digs through dumpsters in New York City sparked outrage over the slashed products she found. Both companies ended their wasteful practices afterwards.

That said, a number of companies are still burning or damaging excess merchandise, including Nike, Amazon, Victoria’s Secret, H&M, and Eddie Bauer. There’s even an active petition urging CVS to donate, versus dump, their products — especially in New York City, where many (including CVS’ own employees) struggle to put food on the table.

Why is tossing products such a common industry practice? Beyond brand exclusivity, it’s simply the cheapest option. In general, it takes more resources to process for resale, recycling, or repurposing. Some products can’t even be disassembled, thereby preventing salvage of parts as well. And the problem is growing alongside the rise of online sales. A quarter of online products are returned and fashion sees return rates as high as 50%.

France is trying to address the problem through legislation. The country passed an anti-waste law in January 2020 and is now creating frameworks for responsible management of discarded clothing and other waste streams.

🎬 Take Action 

While social media can influence companies to make a change, advocates say lawmakers need to work on policy that can enforce anti-waste across industry. Consider sending a letter or email to your legislators to share your concerns about how much product is being wasted.

Resource Center:

  • CNN (Where we found this story) 2 weeks old | 5 minutes long
  • Vogue Product return rates 1.5 weeks old | 12 minutes long
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Lawmakers need to be less clothes-minded about waste policy.

Art Credit: ASCII Art Archive

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