An estimated $500 billion is lost globally each year when clothes are disposed of before the end of their useful material life. In an effort to reduce this, companies are exploring ways to do business with less negative impact. To this end, companies make claims about the environmental benefits of implementing different circular models. Without clear and common reference points or methods, companies could be at risk of greenwashing and might lose money and competitive advantage investing in false solutions. This guidebook helps companies make accurate calculations to the relative impact a reuse business model has on their environmental footprint.

Co-developed by World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), this guidebook presents methods for apparel companies to measure the environmental impacts of clothing reuse:

Step 1: Increase utilization.

Estimate the number of wears that your business model enables compared to a traditional garment lifespan. Shift the model to increase this number.

Step 2: Decrease lifecycle impact.

Ensure through lifecycle comparison that the environmental impact of a reused garment is less than that of a garment in a traditional business model. If it is not, redesign the strategy.

Step 3: Prove displacement and decouple profit from resource use.

Focus on displacing sales of new clothes.

Next: Set a target for a breakeven point or tipping point.

Transform the business such that profits from sales of reused clothes or associated services eventually overtake profits from new clothes.

This guidebook is a part of a series of tools put forth by the Clothing Reuse Market Makers project. Its companion guidebook, “Square Your Circle: How to Ensure a Just Transition to Reuse Business Models in Apparel,” looks at social impacts. For more information, please visit WRI’s Sustainable and Ethical Apparel page.