Historically speaking, the fashion industry has been a wasteful business, responsible for generating 80 to 100 billion pieces of clothing per year—and plenty of pollution to go with it. Thankfully, times are changing. Now, the latest trend isn’t a new color or cut—it’s the concept of sustainability. And Burberry is the latest high-end fashion house to jump aboard.
Britain’s largest luxury label has announced its “ambitious goals” to become carbon neutral in operational energy use by 2022. According to a statement on its website, the label plans to use 100 percent of energy from renewable sources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 95 percent from its direct operations and 30 percent from its extended supply chain.
It’s not the first eco-friendly step the brand has taken. Last year, Burberry committed to ending the practice of incinerating unsold goods—a wasteful (and heartbreaking) measure fashion firms employ to maintain brand value and prevent inventory from being stolen or sold cheaply. Burberry revealed in its 2018 annual report that it has burned approximately $37 million, or £28.6 million, worth of clothing and cosmetics—so this act alone represents a substantial step towards reeling in waste.
Labels have incorporated eco-friendly measures into the products as well. Earlier this year, Ralph Lauren launched an environmentally friendly riff on its trademark polo shirt, with the new designs made from recycled plastic bottles. And this week, Prada followed suit announcing the Re-Nylon project, which sees a new iteration of its iconic nylon bag made from ocean plastic. The Italian luxury group also set a goal to phase out virgin nylon by 2021. (We know, the 2020s are going to be a very exciting time.)
Of course, there is still a plenty of room for improvement when it comes to fashion industry practices. Wasteful and often exploitative fast fashion businesses continue to proliferate, marketing cheap products en masse to teens and 20-somethings. Moreover, a recent report by consultancy BCG and sustainable fashion groups found that the industry’s sustainability progress has slowed by a third in the past year and is not moving fast enough to counter the climate crisis. Still, with Burberry, Prada and other luxury labels taking concrete steps to reduce their carbon footprint, there’s hope for a more sustainable future in the fashion industry.