Sales: the real ecological impact

Today’s winter sales perpetuate the questionable practice of liquidating surplus goods in shops, obscuring an environmentally unfriendly reality. Textile retailers dispose of their surplus unsustainably,posing a considerable challenge to the environment.

Textile companies often opt for overproduction as a precaution to ensure they don’t run out of stock to meet demand. This overproduction stems from uncertainties about consumer preferences and demand. To avoid stock-outs and adapt to unforeseen fluctuations in demand, they often manufacture surplus quantities. What’s more, sales strategies such as sales or promotional offers sometimes encourage this overproduction to ensure sufficient supply. Moreover, the economies of scale achieved by mass production also provide an incentive to produce more. These practices lead to the creation of product surpluses, prompting companies to organize sales to sell off these surplus stocks.

This Wednesday, January 10, saw the start of the long-awaited 2024 winter sales across France. This is an opportunity for large and small textile retailers alike to destock a selection of their unsold items at profitable discounts, much to the delight of households.

However, this approach is far from environmentally friendly. Fashion giants have a habit of destroying surplus products by burning them annually. This is the case of H&M, which was singled out in 2017 for burning nearly 12 tons of clothing a year.

Fast fashion has adetrimental detrimental impact on the environment due to its large-scale production and rapid consumption model, generating massive textile waste and contributing to the exploitation of natural resources. In the course of a year, 100 billion items of clothing are bought during sales and 400 billion end up being thrown away, generating around 300 million m3 of water per year.

The new system came into force on January 1, 2022, the lAGEC law(Anti-Waste for a Circular Economy) which prohibits the dissolution of non-food waste. Added to, this is the European Union’s announcement on December 5, 2023 that it will prohibit the destruction of all unsold new clothing. According to a recent ADEME study (Agency for Ecological Transition),this action represents 10,000 to 20,000 tonnes every year in France. Also, the January 2023 sales resulted in 3.8 million tonnes of CO2, equivalent to the emissions of 1.3 million cars over the course of a year.