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Our Approach

As a global luxury retailer and manufacturer with more than 10,000 employees, over 400 retail locations and a supply chain that touches the lives of thousands of people worldwide, we are passionate about driving positive change for our industry, our communities and the environment.

Our Responsibility agenda is designed to drive positive change and build a more sustainable future through partnership and innovation. We have set ourselves ambitious goals for 2022 that address key risks and opportunities across the entire footprint of our operations. To achieve these, we are investing in the communities at the heart of our business through a series of bespoke programmes, delivered in partnership with expert organisations; we are driving new approaches to some of the most pressing problems faced by our industry, and leading by example to champion more sustainable resources.

Burberry has a strong track record of caring for the environment and our communities. Starting in 2004, we established our ethical trade, community investment and environmental programmes and launched our first five-year responsibility goals in 2012. We have since completed nearly 3,000 supply chain audits and assessments, donated more than £30 million to charitable causes, and reduced our market-based CO2e emissions by over 50%. A summary of our progress during 2012-2017 can be found in our Responsibility Reflections report.

Acting responsibly and with integrity is in our DNA. Our founder, Thomas Burberry, was a man of strong philanthropic principles; he donated clothes and materials to the Red Cross and was known for welcoming those in need into his home. Today, these values serve as the foundation of the culture of our business, as we draw on the power of our heritage to positively influence our future.


Creating Tomorrow's Heritage
Our Responsibility goals to 2022

 

Materiality

Our 2022 goals were developed with the help of key stakeholders, to address the most material issues for our business, as well as the most pressing social and environmental needs along our value chain.

They have been informed by the Paris Climate Agreement and the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, resulting in, for example: the development of our Manufacturing Excellence programme focused on going beyond compliance and driving worker wellbeing in our supply chain (in support of SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth); or our commitment to 100% renewable energy (in support of SDG 13 – Climate Action); or our funding, through the Burberry Foundation, of a community programme in Afghanistan to promote both economic and gender equality (SDGs 5 and 10 – Gender Equality and Reduced Inequalities).

Our product, energy and waste goals have been informed by science and by over ten years of experience in developing and implementing social and environmental programmes. Our targets have also been influenced by a multi-stakeholder event we convened in July 2015. This included experts from academia, NGOs and businesses from a variety of industries, with whom we shared our early plans and whose input and comments we used to shape our journey ahead.

When developing our community focused programmes, we first worked with our Product Development, Sourcing and Business Strategy teams to identify key locations along our value chain where we have the biggest impacts and where we are uniquely placed to make a difference. We then liaised with external expert organisations, to identify local community needs and effective ways to address these. See our Annual Report, page 44, for details on our broader stakeholder engagement approach.

In early 2017 we shared our draft strategy with our External Advisory Committee, comprising experts from the NGO, social enterprise and academic sectors, to solicit their comments on materiality and ambition of our goals. A year into the new strategy, their comments and reflections are summarised below.

Our 2022 goals and commitments were assessed for materiality and signed off by our senior leadership team and company Board. Progress is reported publicly in our Annual Report and on burberryplc.com. 

 

Burberry Responsibility Advisory Committee – A collective comment on progress and challenges

As Burberry's 'critical friends', acting in an independent advisory capacity to the business, we welcome the bold new strategy which represents a step change in ambition and approach, aiming to make a meaningful difference in the areas where the company has the biggest impacts. We admire the company's commitment to broader communication with all external stakeholders, to openly discuss challenges and celebrate progress and innovation.

Burberry's approach is founded on a recognition that the challenges faced by the global apparel sector are too big and too systemic for a company of its size to tackle alone, but that every business has its role to play in creating a sustainable present and future for the industry. The company has a plan that is highly collaborative, but with Burberry firmly in the driving seat and with a clear view of the road ahead.

The shift in emphasis away from traditional supply chain audits to surveying and promoting workers' wellbeing is timely, and the stronger alignment between the company’s responsibility goals and the Burberry Foundation’s social purpose are enabling a more long-term approach, leveraging combined resources for greater impact. The focus on driving positive change through their products and the bold emphasis on circularity should speed up change as the company approaches 2022.In the company’s efforts to achieve carbon neutrality, energy saving initiatives are gaining more traction across the business, shown by progress to date.

As Burberry progresses its new strategy, we recommend that the company continues to build on its commitments to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and to report on both its progress in achieving positive impact and steps taken to identify and address negative impacts. These include the recognition that whilst fashion can play a positive role in consumers' lives the unsustainable nature of how brands deliver fashion to their consumers must be recast. The systemic nature of in-work poverty, gender inequality, and even modern slavery in global supply chains, together with the industry's significant material consumption and waste production and poor record of supply chain transparency, set a challenging scene for Burberry's achievement of its strategy.

In the era of #metoo, all companies need to work harder to demonstrate dignity and respect in the way they interact with employees, customers, and the people who help develop and deliver their products and services. Investment needs to be made in how impact will be assessed, and new levels of meaningful transparency will be needed across the luxury industry.

Last, but not least, the nature of Burberry's ownership model is that its primary purpose is geared to maximise returns for shareholders. To ensure the business delivers benefits to a wider group of stakeholders than shareholders and consumers, and to safeguard the company's commitments to sustainability and corporate responsibility, we encourage the company to investigate ways to 'hard-wire' these into the purpose and DNA of the business and we stand ready to support the company in the necessary innovation to achieve this.

Mark Sumner, Lecturer in Sustainability, Retail & Fashion, University of Leeds
Sally Uren, Chief Executive, Forum for the Future
Kresse Wesling, Co-Founder, Elvis & Kresse
Rachel Wilshaw, Ethical Trade Manager, Oxfam GB

Governance

Burberry’s Chief People, Strategy and Corporate Affairs Officer is responsible for all internal people and health and safety matters, as well as the delivery of our responsibility goals for 2022 (covering community, product and climate change related risks and opportunities), and regularly reports on these topics to the Group Risk Committee and the Burberry plc Board.

Targets relating to our 2022 goals are owned by members of our senior leadership team. The implementation of responsibility programmes is supported by global policies, supported by cross-functional delivery groups, and guided by our Responsibility Advisory Committee, comprising external expert stakeholders from the NGO, social enterprise and academic sector.

A robust governance framework is in place to ensure effective internal oversight, ownership and accountability, as well as external challenge and input:

Board The Board is responsible for the Group’s risk management and internal controls system. It is also responsible for oversight of the five strategic pillars: Product Focus; Productive Space; E-Commerce Leadership; Operational Excellence; Inspired People. 
Executive Team Progress against our responsibility goals is reviewed on a regular basis by our Executive Team. A key focus area is ensuring Burberry acts responsibly as a business.
Responsibility Team The Responsibility Team works with and supports internal teams to ensure implementation of the company’s Responsibility strategy and progress against goals. Team members are based in London, Leeds, Florence, Hong Kong and Tokyo. 
External Advisory Committee The External Advisory Committee is a group of leading independent stakeholders with expertise in different areas of sustainability. Committee members represent Elvis & Kresse, Forum for the Future, Oxfam GB and University of Leeds. This committee of ‘critical friends’ meets several times a year to hear progress updates and comment on draft strategies. 
Foundation Board The Burberry Foundation Board is responsible for upholding the Foundation’s vision and ensuring delivery of its charitable purpose. The Board meets four times a year. 

Burberry follows the Turnbull Report guidance and UK Corporate Governance Code. Further information on the approach to corporate governance can be found in the Corporate Governance section.