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Product Donations Are Another Way Denim Brands Can Promote Sustainability

The fashion industry has many dirty secrets, one of them being the destruction of unsold goods.

When it was revealed in 2018 that Burberry burned more than $38 billion worth of unsold good to prevent them from being resold or stolen, consumer outcry and bewilderment forced fashion houses to press pause and reconsider the tired practice of destroying usable garments.

Burberry responded by pledging to reuse, repair and recycle unsaleable merchandise—all common themes across the denim industry, which has found resourceful ways to integrate recycled fibers into new jeans and treats vintage denim like blue gold.

The luxury house also pledged to donate excess inventory—a move that is a win-win for people and the environment.

The pledge was a reminder to new generations that before shredding machines and a market for pricey, upcycled fashion came to the fore, donations were the resourceful way to manage excess inventory. At Kingpins New York last week, non-profit Delivering Good took to the stage to share how denim manufacturers and retailers can create sustainable philanthropic messages by donating new products to people in need.

“By donating and not ending up in landfills, we are preventing additional climate change,” Dionisia Hatzis, Delivering Good director of marketing, said.

Since 1985, Delivering Good has helped distribute more than $2 billion worth of donated product to children, adults and families affected by poverty or disaster through their network of nonprofit partners. This year alone, Delivering Good has supported relief efforts following Hurricane Dorian, wildfires in California and flooding in Texas—all through its simple and efficient donation process.

“We coordinate directly with the donor, and depending on where the product is and what it is, we make sure it gets to the most appropriate community partner that we work with,” Merri Keller, Delivering Good director of product procurement, said.

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Product donations, she added, are a tool in the CSR toolbox that all denim brands should use and highlight in their marketing efforts. With Delivering Good taking care of the logistics, brands and retailers can dedicate more resources to sharing uplifting philanthropic messages to their consumers.

“We work individually with each brand, each manufacturer, each retailer to make sure that our mission and their goals dovetail,” Hatzis said.

Some brands, she said, roll out 360-degree initiatives that include social media, press and activations. Others engage closely with the organizations they are supporting. It’s those personal connections that make the donations feel even more meaningful.

Delivering Good, Hatzis noted, has the capacity to take feedback from the people receiving donations and share those stories with the donating companies. Those inspiring stories can then be folded back into their communication to consumers.

“We work with brands that simply want to do the right thing and sometimes they don’t even necessarily want to share that message, but I’ve been encouraging that they do share that message because people want to know that they are giving back,” she said.

Doing good is good for business. Ninety percent of American consumers, Hatzis reported, are likely to switch brands to one with a good cause, given similar price and quality.

“Consumers are choosing who they purchase from depending on what missions they support,” she said. “If a brand is not giving back, or is not in support of a mission that they are in support of, they will go elsewhere.”

And brands and retailers will be rewarded. “It’s not only doing the right thing for your community, it’s also doing the right thing for your bottom line,” she added.