Can Luxury Brands Truly be Ethical?
Ethical Fashion 101 Inside the Industry

Can Luxury Brands Truly be Ethical?

I recently did an informal interview with a student commenting on Burberry’s supply chain transparency. Since I am going a mile a minute and am working on special post for subscribers, I thought I would share the interview here along with additional comments.

I’d love to hear from you as well!


It has been reported that several major brands burn their unsold products. 

This is in no way a new practice, but it is something that the public at large did not know about.

Burberry alone has burned more than $40 million worth of bags in 2018 alone.

Since this was reported, Burberry has immediately stopped this practice in an effort to commit to more ethical practices across the board.

Burberry is now named the most sustainable luxury brand by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. 

After reading this I was interested in learning more about their sustainable initiatives that they are proud to display on their website.

Overall I feel this is a positive example of a large brand responding to the feedback from customers and reacting relatively quickly and holistically to become more sustainable.

While I did not review all of the Top Brands the Index recognized, from working at a smaller scale ethical fashion brand AND with leather bags specifically, it is no small task to do such an overhaul.

Large brands do tend to jump on social trends for one or two items, or will create misleading information to entice customers who do not understand a trending movement. But the partnerships and actions taken by Burberry seem relatively truthful.

It is also good to see that they publicize much of their initiatives, partnerships, and future plans online.

This is good for customers to validate their claims of being sustainable, but personally I would want more hard evidence than what they have provided before I trusted them.

Specifically, I did not see anywhere about what Burberry is going to do instead of burn their excess inventory.

How are they managing their production to ensure supply matches demand moving forward?

Will they design less seasons with styles that can live longer?

Despite these wonderful initiatives, the fact that $40 million worth of product was destroyed by burning should disqualify any recognition for being sustainable.

It is understandable that brands want to protect their products from being knocked off by other producers.

But burning such a high volume of product shows there are many breakdowns in the supply chain.

Clearly there are additional steps that need to be taken.

Is it important for high fashion to be sustainable?

freestocks-org-187367-unsplash.jpgYes – Fashion should be sustainable at all price points and levels of the trend bell curve (to an extent as fast fashion as a whole including their price points should be eliminated).

With larger brands showing their transition to sustainable fashion and converting ALL of their products to ethically made pieces, this allows high fashion consumers to set the standard as trends trickle down.

Larger brands have the opportunity to provide long term sustainable goals for artisans, as described on the Burberry site. And these luxury brands could play a meaningful role in the fair trade movement for the fashion industry.

Would you ever shop with a large luxury brand that claims to be sustainable? 

Personally, I prefer to continue to support smaller brands that have been founded on sustainable principles. Smaller scale brands typically empower artisans to provide a better life for themselves and their family, become business owners, etc.

I applaud large brands that do legitmately want to provide goods with a fully sustainable supply chain, it is challenging for me to entertain purchasing from a brand that has burned their own products to simply maintain their luxury status in the market.

This thinking in itself is not compatible with sustainable production.

What can we learn from this? 

A positive we can learn from this is that consumers do have the power in the marketplace. All it takes is either making an ethical purchase or simply stating your views on how products should be made and brands will listen.

Especially if it begins to affect their bottom line.


Thank you for reading this interview and let me know what YOU think!

Do you think luxury brands can ever be fully ethical?

Hello there! I'm Brie and I work for a fair trade jewelry brand, and I want to share my knowledge with consumers on all things ethical in fashion. Follow me as I travel to learn about the traditional crafts and modern designs that continue to positively impact communities around the world.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.