Fascinating story in the New York Times about a New York based H & M clothing store destroying unsold merchandise and then dumping it into the trash. The article points out that in NYC, a third of the city is considered “poor” and in need of warm clothes, coats, hats and shoes. Finding bags and bags worth of unsold clothing destroyed and abandoned was pointed out as being unnecessarily wasteful on the part of the store management.

The other side of this coin, however, is the cost of business.

Where a consumer sees un-necessary waste, a business sees a program to safeguard their interest and business health.

Let’s say it becomes general knowledge that H&M will throw away racks and racks of perfectly good clothing at the end of every season. Would a consumer still be willing to go into the store and purchase that adorable green coat for $129 dollars if they could dumpster dive for it three months later for free?

After this article in the NYTimes ran, H&M released a statement saying they would no longer use this practice of disposing unsold product. Instead they would donate it to a local charity for dispersal to people who truly need it. [Kudos to them for seeing the need to react swiftly and decisively to a growing negative public discussion]

Interestingly enough, H&M Corporate has an entire section on their website dedicated to “Corporate Responsibility” which shows a real commitment to sustainability. This incident could have been a case of a single store not wanting to take the trouble to follow policy.

For the sake of business, I would love to know what this is going to do to this particular store’s bottom line. I am assuming they were destroying in field for a reason, not just for the fun of slashing hundreds and hundreds of items. There’s a cost to everything a business does. From shipping to restocking to disposing of the fabric in a “proper” manner. At what point in this decision process did the end game tip from “this is what we should do” to “this is what we will do”.

So, if you are H&M, what do you do? Continue to destroy clothing to avoid loss of sales and market saturation…. or switch to a more sustainable method and go through a charitable agency to donate that unused clothing?

‘Chelle Parmele