Our five-year Responsibility Agenda includes a goal to help tackle the waste challenge facing our industry. In September 2018, we strengthened our commitment by becoming the first luxury company to announce that we were stopping, with immediate effect, the practice of destroying unsaleable finished products. Across key UK operations, comprising Burberry’s internal manufacturing and distribution sites in Northern England and Burberry’s head office, Burberry’s office in Leeds and retail stores in London and Manchester, we sent zero waste to landfill in 2018/19.
During the year, we expanded existing reuse, repair, donation and recycling routes, while developing new partnerships and revaluation solutions. We also focused on limiting the causes of waste, enabled by an increasingly global view of inventory management and our new model of tighter more frequent collections, which allows us to be much more targeted and precise in the way we design, buy and sell.
In 2018/19, we handled around 20,000 repair and replacement part enquiries for products ranging from well-loved leather goods to vintage items. We also donated more than 20,000 items of business clothing as part of our long-term partnerships with charities such as Smart Works. The UK-based charity supports unemployed women with interview training, smart clothing and styling advice as they prepare for potentially life-changing interviews. To celebrate International Women’s Day 2018, we hosted a special event at Horseferry House for some Smart Works clients who have gained employment through the service. The clients received a special Burberry styling session from members of our retail teams and were gifted their Burberry wardrobes to keep and wear to their new job.
Raw materials are a significant waste stream for the luxury fashion industry. For leather, even when product patterns are carefully planned to maximise the use of a hide, the process inevitably creates small offcuts. Through The Burberry Foundation, we are working with sustainable luxury company Elvis & Kresse to transform leather offcuts from the production of Burberry products into a range of accessories and homeware by 2022. Half of the profits from this range are donated to charitable organisations promoting renewable energy, while the remaining half is reinvested by Elvis & Kresse to expand their work and generate apprenticeship and work experience opportunities. Since the launch of this partnership in 2017, 3.7 tonnes of leather offcuts have been transformed into products and over 5,000 potential “makers” have been inspired about waste revaluation.
We have also supported the London College of Fashion with raw materials to launch their “1000 Coats” project, which aims to provide women in East London with technical sewing skills and knowledge by making 1000 coats for children in need, while creating potential new employment opportunities for the women involved.
Similarly, we have initiated a partnership and started donating excess fabric to Progetto Quid in Italy, a women-led not-for-profit cooperative, providing women and men from disadvantaged backgrounds with employment opportunities through sustainable fashion.
When waste is inevitable, we work with innovative organisations to recycle it. For example, in Italy last year, we recycled 70 tonnes of pre-consumer textiles into regenerated yarns, fabrics and automotive insulation materials. We are also conducting trials to explore ways of repurposing raw materials and some unsaleable finished products.
To further strengthen our existing commitments, in May 2018 we became a core partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular Initiative, joining other leading organisations to explore how our industry can work towards the vision of a circular fashion economy.
In December 2018, we joined the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which aims to eradicate plastic waste and pollution by 2025. The commitment is also led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with UN Environment and aims to create a new normal for plastic packaging globally. As part of this, we are working to eliminate problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging; ensure plastic in our packaging can be easily reused, recycled or composted; and circulate any plastic packaging so that it can be made into new packaging or products. We have also completed a Plastic Footprint Mapping exercise, identifying the use of plastic across our activities worldwide.