Burberry is the latest multinational corporation to have incinerated millions of pounds worth of their own stock – £28.6 million to be precise. The luxury fashion brand burned bags, clothes, and perfume in a bid to maintain its brand image and reputation. Incinerating stock is apparently less damaging to Burberry’s brand than selling it at lower prices. Lamentably, this is all too common in the luxury fashion industry.
When considering what to do with surplus stock, the obvious thing for a multinational to do would surely be to offer products at a discount, or potentially even donate them to those in need. But Burberry decided instead to simply burn their inventory. Big companies like these consider such actions justifiable to protect their ‘brand image’, which consists of only selling products at eye-wateringly high prices, and therefore preferring to destroy stock rather than offer it at a discount. This is the clearest example of the vast accumulation of wealth at one end of society, such that £28.6 million of commodities can be incinerated without a second thought, at the same time as homelessness and poverty are on the increase everywhere. This is the kind of society that capitalism, and the pursuit of profit above all else, creates.
As if the wastefulness wasn’t bad enough, this is yet another way in which big business displays its contempt for the environment. Burberry claims it has processes in place to dispose of excess stock in a “responsible manner”, but the environmental impact of setting fire to £28.6 million of goods suggests otherwise. In fact, Burberry is not a first-time offender, over the past five years, the company has burned over £90 million worth of designer goods. While the rest of us are made to feel guilty if we forget to recycle our milk cartons, the multinationals pollute on a vast scale simply to protect their profits.
All of this highlights the broken and irrational system that we live under. The capitalist system is blindly driven only by the desperate hunt for profit, so much so that companies would rather destroy their stock, into which they have invested time and money, than give it away, or even have it recycled. They don’t care one bit about all the waste and environmental damage they create, they only have their sights set on preserving elitist exclusivity, overpriced labels, and fat profits.
This is a product of the contradictory chaos of capitalism and the irrationality of the anarchic free market. So, what can we do about it?
Simply put, we need to rationally plan production based on social need. We need to ditch production for profit and provide cheap, good quality essentials that actually fulfil people’s needs. It is imperative for us to nationalise the commanding heights of the economy – the multinationals who dominate manufacturing and other key industries – without paying the billionaire owners any compensation, and then we can put the economy under the control of the working class, who can run it for need, not profit.
With socialist measures like this, Burberry and others could never get away with this wasteful and damaging behaviour. If the actions of these multinationals make you as angry as they make me, and you want to do something to change it, then join the fight for socialism.
by Shivie Pandit, Queen Mary Marxists