How Committed Are You, Coach? Designer Brand Called Out for Shockingly Contradictory Policy

 By: Alexa Maratos

TikTok’s algorithm is quite impressive when it comes to determining its audience. As I have spent the past few weeks researching sustainable fashion practices for my law review note, a video regarding Coach popped up on my “for you” page. In this video, content creator Anna Sacks speaks about Coach’s corporate policy of “slashing and destroying” damaged, defective, and unsellable merchandise from their brand.[1] This policy is outright contradictory to what Coach has put forward regarding their sustainable practices and campaigns.[2]

To begin, Sacks shares how she purchased a few Coach items from another content creator who found them while dumpster diving.[3] Sacks describes the condition of the items and how they are due to Coach ordering their employees to deliberately slash and destroy unwanted merchandise.[4]  Coach would write off the products as a tax-write off under the same loophole as if the products were destroyed on their own.[5] Sacks shares that as a publicly-traded company, stockholders were not disclosed of this policy.[6]

This is astonishing to find out in comparison to the sustainable and circular fashion policies Coach promotes on their website. The “Coach (Re)Loved” campaign allows for pre-loved and recycled bags to be available for purchase, creating a circular practice that “help[s] create a less wasteful way of doing things.[7] Coach even states, “don’t ditch it, repair it” to promote their repair workshop for items of merchandise their consumers damage.[8] Going even further, a link to their 2025 Corporate Responsibility Goals is listed under their webpage of Coach Responsibility. One of the goals includes traceability and transparency about their supply chain![9]

On October 11, 2021, a few days after the viral video came out, Coach released a statement in response.[10] The statement can be viewed on their Instagram page as a three-photo slide post. In the post, Coach speaks to how committed they are to sustainability:

“We have now ceased destroying in-store returns of damaged and unsalable goods and are dedicated to maximizing such product reuse in our Coach (Re)Loved and other circularity programs. Last year, we donated products valued at over $55 million to support low-income families, individuals in need, those re-entering the workforce, and education programs. We will continue to develop and implement solutions to responsibly repurpose, recycle, and reuse excess or damaged products.”[11]

Although Coach has put a stop to the policy and spoke on their immense corporate social responsibility activities, it seems as though they only stopped in response to being called out.

In my opinion, it is doubtful that Coach would have put a stop to this policy through their own reflection. If they had really been “committed” to sustainability in the first place, Coach would have never had a policy that involved wasting expensive materials. There are plenty of alternatives that would be better environmentally and financially than destroying these designer products. And Coach is aware of them! Hopefully, Coach has truly taken responsibility, learned their lesson, and can move forward with truth and transparency.

Image from: Coach’s Instagram

[1] Taylor Avery, Coach to stop destroying damaged returns after TikTok video of slashed purses goes viral, USA TODAY (Oct. 14, 2021), https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/10/14/coach-stop-destroying-merchandise-after-viral-tiktok-video/8453093002/.

[2] Ana Conlón, Coach Says It Will No Longer Destroy Unsold ‘Unsalable’ Products After Viral TikTok, Fashionista (Oct. 12, 2021), https://fashionista.com/2021/10/coach-destroying-unsold-products-viral-tiktok?utm_campaign=later-linkinbio-thesustainablefashionforum&utm_content=later-22261774&utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkin.bio.

[3] Anna Sacks, TikTok (Oct. 8, 2021), https://www.tiktok.com/@thetrashwalker/video/7016830633045478662?is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1&refer=embed&referer_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.insider.com%2F&referer_video_id=7016830633045478662.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Coach, Coach Re-Loved, Coach, https://www.coach.com/shop/coach-reloved?ogmap=AFF%7CRTN%7Ctv2R4u9rImY%7CSTND%7CMULTI%7CSITEWIDE%7C%7C%7C10%7C448423%7C%7C%7CUS&utm_source=Skimlinks%20(Variable%20Pricing)&utm_medium=aff&utm_campaign=448423&utm_content=1&utm_term=3157217&ranMID=37299&ranEAID=tv2R4u9rImY&ranSiteID=tv2R4u9rImY-Oa6hLc0MZuWS_lGWFM7e3g&page=2&start=0.

[8] Coach, Repairs, Coach, https://www.coach.com/support/repairs.

[9] Coach, Tapestry’s 2025 Corporate Responsibility Goals, Coach, https://coach.a.bigcontent.io/v1/static/Tapestry_2025_Goals_V2.

[10] Coach (@coach), Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/p/CU6FY_DgZft/.

[11] Id.

4 comments

  1. Such a great blog, Alexa! I’ve heard about “slash and destroy” policies from other high end brands. It’s also interesting to see companies, like Madewell, doing “preloved” programs and people can sell-back items and other customers can purchase them. It’s interesting to see such polar opposites of sustainability within the world of fashion and also how consumers can redirect companies to implement more sustainable practices.

  2. This is such a timely article given the season as well as Black Friday shopping. The role of social media in calling out brands for their unsustainable practices and actually getting them to change their ways seems to be very influential. I wonder if the announcement of their new initiatives was just a PR move or if it will truly sour change within the company. There is a great law review article about this topic that discusses possible legal solutions to enforce sustainability promises made by brands. 30 Fordham Intell. Prop. Media & Ent. L.J. 539. I highly recommend checking it out!

  3. I find it fascinating that it is social media, instead of shareholders that are holding companies accountable. Although, I wonder if this has prompted any shareholder resolutions to force Coach to stay true to their word. Furthermore, I wonder if this will prompt any lawsuits against Coach for false advertising.

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