Whether you’re a die-hard Burberry fan or have never held much affection for the fashion label, the company’s new sustainability goals are sure to impress. And to help customers make more sustainable choices and see how the company is doing in meeting those goals, Burberry rolled out a new ‘positive attributes’ labeling system in 2020. Every product now sports a pistachio-colored label outlining key sustainability elements such as the amount of recycled natural fibers, carbon emissions, and social policies.
Which of Burberry’s products are the most sustainable? We take a look at ReBurberry Edit – a collection re-created using sustainable materials, and more of the company’s eco-friendlier offerings in a moment, but first a quick look at where Burberry stands on sustainability. Curious about how we rate products? Click here to view our methodology, which at its core, is about voting with our dollars to fight climate change.
Burberry’s Blake Sunglasses were created by Riccardo Tisci and named for the poet and artist William Blake. I’m not sure sunglasses existed in the late 1700s when Blake was writing, but the poet did write the oft-quoted lines:
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
Perhaps that framing has finally come to pass, in the form of these sunglasses made with renewable energy and using bio-acetate produced from cotton fiber. The material comes from renewable sources and is biodegradable, but it’s not clear what processes Burberry uses to make the plastic-like frames and whether any harsh chemicals are involved. The company currently sources 68% of their cotton through the Better Cotton Initiative, non-profit which helps promote better environmental and labor conditions in the cotton industry (but doesn’t guarantee cotton is organic).
The Blake sunglasses have scratch-resistant gradient black lenses with 100% UV protection, are made in Italy, come with a hard leather case and cleaning cloth, and have printed Burberry lettering at the temple. Burberry have committed to working with leather tanneries that have at least one environmental certification. Still, leather tanning is a very toxic industry, with chromium and other heavy metals used in tanning processes posing a significant environmental hazard.
All in all, these glasses may be more sustainably produced than virgin plastic sunglasses, but there are some unanswered questions over their manufacture and how exactly they biodegrade.
The Burberry Heritage Trench Coat is made using only renewable energy (hence the extra leaf) and features Econyl® from recycled nylon and recycled polyester from plastic bottles. It has press-stud welt pockets, a double-breasted closure, epaulettes, hook-and-eye collar closure, gun flap, belted cuffs, a D-ring belt, check undercollar, and storm shield.
Again, this one is dry-clean only, which isn’t eco-friendly.
The classic Burberry Vintage check print lightweight hooded jacket is made with taffeta and recycled polyester yarn produced using plastic bottles. It has a 100% polyester outer and lining, two-way zip closure, side zip pockets, press-stud cuffs, and a drawcord hood and hem.
The Reversible Vintage Check recycled polyester jacket is also made with recycled plastic bottle yarn and is almost exactly the same as the regular Vintage jacket with the exception that it is fully reversible. That’s because instead of a polyester lining, this design has one side made with Econyl® polyamide, a nylon yarn made from old fishing nets, fabric scarps, and industrial plastic. The hooded design is reversible, with check on one side and block color on the other.
Both of these jackets are dry-clean only though, which isn’t eco-friendly.
The Appliqué Econyl Cannon Belt Pack is made using recycled nylon yarn, has adjustable straps and a globe graphic zip pull, and is versatile and stylish. The outer layer is made of Econyl®, with trims made of polyamide and calf leather, and the back panel made of polyamide. It’s not clear if the polyamide is all Econyl®, and calf leather is sure to be off-putting for many potential customers.
The pack has an adjustable clip belt and adjustable shoulder straps, with a zip closure, polished metal hardware, and hand painted edges. There’s also a silicone patch with raised Burberry lettering at the front. It’s not clear whether the metal is recycled or what kind of metal it is, nor what kind of paint is used.
The pack measures 22 x 8 x 15 cm (8.7 x 3.1 x 5.9 in) with minimum shoulder strap length of 44 cm (17.3 in) and a maximum length of 80 cm (31.5 in). The minimum and maximum chest strap lengths are 57 cm (22.4 in) and 120 cm (47.2 in).
The Burberry Packaway Hood Bio-Based Nylon Jacket is arguably better than most nylon jackets as it is made using renewable resources such as castor oil. Castor beans are notorious for being able to grow in places where other crops struggle, with few inputs and little water needed. The jacket also has a lining made of polyamide, however, and it’s not clear that this is Econyl®, so it’s likely not made from recycled materials.
This design is a boxy fit with cinches at the waist and cuffs. It has a packaway hood and measures 24.4 inches in a UK size 8. There’s a concealed zip and press-stud closure, concealed press-stud welt pockets, a packaway drawcord hood, drawcord waist, and a silicone patch with raised Burberry lettering at the chest. Again, this one is dry-clean only.
Burberry also make the following products that are more sustainable than their regular collection and far more sustainable than most other designer pieces currently gracing runways and store racks.
Sustainability at Burberry
By 2022, Burberry aims to have all its products boast at least one positive attribute in terms of sustainability; 89% currently meet this standard and just over two-thirds have two or more. Also by 2022, the brand aims to be carbon neutral. Their plan is to switch to renewable energy sources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 95%.
In 2019/20, Burberry have already achieved nearly 90% renewable energy across their global operations and have sent zero waste to landfill in some UK and Italian operations with no destruction of unsaleable finished products across operations. They continue to expand their reuse, repair, donate, and recycle processes.
In 2019 Burberry was included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) for the fifth consecutive year, achieving its highest ever score in the Index. The company ranked third place in the ‘Textiles, Apparel & Luxury Goods’ sector and is also a Living Wage Employer, and Core partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular Initiative.
Burberry’s ReBurberry Edit collection will include heritage pieces such as their classic trench coat and car coat, as well as eyewear made from bio-based acetate. Some of the clothing items will be made from Econyl, a recycled nylon material made using industrial plastic waste and old fishing nets.
Positive attributes as outlined by Burberry include the following:
- Recycled natural fiber content
- Recycled feather content
- Organic content, including cotton and wool
- Bio-based content
- Recycled synthetic fiber content
- Worker health and well-being
- Chemical management
- Energy and water reduction
- Renewable energy
- Workers paid the living wage
- Leather Tannery Certification – leather products must bear one environmental certification and one traceability certification, underpinned by one social compliance certification.
Burberry also use somewhat sustainable packaging, with their oak paper made up of 40% recycled coffee cups, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and fully recyclable.
While many of the pieces in Burberry’s ReBurberry collection are made with recycled polyester and nylon in the form of Econyl®, I haven’t awarded 5 leaves to any of the items. Regular readers of Leaf Score might recall that I gave 5 leaves to Reformation, a swimwear company also using Econyl® and wonder why Burberry don’t get the same high rating.
Unlike Reformation, Burberry aren’t transparent about the chemicals used to create these products, such as dyes and finishes. Reformation check all their chemicals against the Restricted Substances List which you can see here and many of their garments are Bluesign certified as safe for the end user, workers, and the environment, and/or Oeko-Tex 100 certified as containing no carcinogens, azo dyes, or other chemicals above limits set out by the European REACH standards. I’m hoping Burberry take similar steps in the future, in addition to following Reformation’s lead in other areas of corporate responsibility.