It is no secret that brands are slowly moving to environmental issues. There have always been brands, such as Patagonia, Starbucks, L.L. Bean, and lesser known, Apple, which incorporate the environment into their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). In diving deeper into this subject of environmental CSR policies or just brands trying to be as kind to the environment as possible, it leads me to question the intents of the new companies becoming environmentally cautious/friendly. Is it just a PR stunt to appear to be an environmentally friendly brand and up their sales? Or is it truly because they care about the environment?
The latest brand shifting towards helping the environment is Burberry. Burberry has been notorious for using non-environmentally friendly practices with their product. With their use of fur in almost all products, PETA, among many others, protested against Burberry. But their use of fur was not the only malpractice. Burberry, a high-end brand, always had a fear of people stealing/reselling their unused and not sold products. Their solution? They decided to burn the unsold products.
But fear not, a new leaf is being turned with Burberry. On Sept 6, Burberry announced in a press release that they are no longer using fur or burning their items- with immediate effect. It will be a part of a five-year responsibility agenda to help tackle the causes of waste. Their goal is to become carbon neutral. Marco Gobbetti, the CEO, said,
“Modern luxury means being socially and environmentally responsible. This belief is core to us at Burberry and key to our long-term success. We are committed to applying the same creativity to all parts of Burberry as we do to our products.”
So why is Burberry doing this now? We will never know if it is commercial speech, political speech or both. Some people will say it is a form of newsjacking but the press release did not make big news. Some people will say it’s Burberry trying to target a wider audience and increase sales but their stocks remained relatively neutral after the announcement, despite a new line.
While Burberry is doing well, the “environmentalism competition” has just been brought up a step with Adidas. Surprisingly, this news did not trend: Adidas has sold one million pairs of sneakers made from the ocean’s trash. While in comparison to past sales, one million shoes is not a lot, selling this many is a change in the conversation. This shift in Adidas’ policy even had Nike switching over the type of leather they use. Adidas first promised a new environmental policy starting in 2015.
Will the trend of brands being more environmentally friendly continue? We will just have to wait and see.
Elizabeth Frenaye is a senior studying public relations and strategic communications, with a focus in event management, as well as international studies at American University. For her chapter of PRSSA, she is the service director and in charge of the Bateman Competition.