Workwear in the rental service contributes to climate protection with its active circular economy – that was the finding of the Circular Advantage Study conducted by the CWS Group in collaboration with the consultancy firm sustainable thinking in 2020. On average, the rental service cuts greenhouse gas emissions by around 76% (excluding transport).
The Circular Advantage study examined the impact on the climate of providing workwear to a worker in Germany for one year with and without a rental service. A climate analysis was performed especially for this purpose and the impact calculated. In the scope of the analysis, four selected CWS collections were considered in the context of a circular system (rental) and a linear system (buying and the wearer washes and repairs the clothing at home (personal contribution)) with regard to their specific data for repairs, replacement and recycling. The study also assumed that each garment was washed 46 times irrespectively of the system tested. The parameters of product quality and washing performance were ignored in order to guarantee comparability.
The underlying calculation model focuses on the climate impact of production and the effects of an extended product service life. This is achieved in the circular system mainly through repair and the repurposing of used goods, which is less common in the linear system. The product’s useful service life in particular has a significant effect on the climate impact: the more used goods are repurposed and the more they are repaired, the longer the clothing can be used and the fewer new clothes have to be produced. And, of course, every part that does not need to be manufactured does not cause extra greenhouse gas emissions.
By employing data on the reuse of garments and the repair of damaged garments, CWS was able to model the climate impact of the rental service compared to a linear system in which wearers take care of washing and repairs themselves.
The calculation analysed repair, wear and reuse data for four different collections. The database was the processing of these four collections in the German CWS laundries in 2019 with a processing volume for these collections of approximately 500,000 items. “A sound database is essential for obtaining meaningful figures,” explained Tobias Steffen, who is responsible for the project as CWS Sustainability Manager and developed the calculation model together with other CWS experts.
The repair and wear data were evaluated in detail to determine the difference between the rental service and linear system. In doing so, the company examined all common repairs of the four studied collections and came to the conclusion that, within the scope of the repairs at home, only about half of all repairs that CWS performs would be done. And when wearers are left to their own devices, the rule is unfortunately: what doesn’t get repaired ends up in the bin.
The result of the calculation is impressive: “Normally, around 72 kilograms of carbon dioxide are generated per year and worker,” said Tobias Steffen. “By offering our workwear on a rental basis, repairing worn or broken items or replacing them with used garments, we reduce these greenhouse gas emissions to just 17 kilograms of CO2 emissions without transport. Even if you factor in transport using CWS vehicles, the CO2 emissions are still halved from 72 to 36 kilograms. That’s remarkable.”
The greatest advantage comes from repairs. Another figure illustrates just how important this aspect is: in Germany alone, more than 2.3 million items of workwear were repaired in CWS’ laundries in 2019.
 All values referring to greenhouse gas emissions are per worker per year in Germany.
 One Bluewear collection, one Industry collection, one Catering & Service collection and one PPE collection from the high-visibility range.