Is Rental Greenwashing?
How does rental fashion work?
As consumers shift to more sustainable buying habits, the fashion industry has come under extreme pressure to offer eco-friendly alternatives to fast fashion. This introduced the rise of rental fashion websites/companies. Allowing a person to borrow clothes for a fixed amount of time, returning the items to the company once they’ve finished wearing them.
Historically, customers used early fashion rental companies for high end unique garments such as; bridal dress hire or luxury items. However, nowadays customers can rent a variety of clothing items to complement their wardrobes. Rental fashion appeals to the younger generations, particularly Gen-Z as they are more likely to consider their purchases' ethical and environmental impacts.
Lets take a look at one of the most popular renting platforms for luxury fashion!
Image source - Ethical Consumer
The UK’s answer to Rent the Runway, HURR raised $5.4 million in funding before launching in 2019 as a peer-to-peer fashion rental marketplace.
Check out this video to get an insight into what HURR offers when renting luxury designer fashion!
HURR places sustainability at the front and centre of its business model. Customers can calculate the environmental savings of wardrobe rental beforehand and benefit from reusable packaging and green dry cleaning. HURR offsets some of its carbon emissions and encourages customers to do the same. The ‘pre-loved’ section of the site also offers customers the chance to purchase their favourite second-hand items for a discounted price.
But... is this greenwashing??
Greenwashing involves making a false claim to deceive consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmentally friendly or have a greater positive environmental impact than it actually does. In addition, greenwashing may occur when a company attempts to emphasise sustainable aspects of a product to overshadow the company’s involvement in environmentally damaging practices.
Renting less clothes is 'less green than throwing them away' - The Guardian
The study, published by the Finnish scientific journal Environmental Research Letters assessed the environmental impact of five different ways of owning and disposing of clothing, including renting, resale and recycling. They found that renting clothes had the highest climate impact of all. The hidden environmental impact was found to be delivery and packaging costs.
An example of this greenwashing effect is from H&M:
Fashion retailor H and M unveiled plans for a clothing rental scheme in Sweden, exclusively available to loyalty scheme members. The collection is a 50 piece selection of sustainably sourced garments, made from the likes of vegan pineapple leather, recycled polyester and orange fibre. Whilst this was a step in the right direction, does this amount to nothing more than a greenwashed attempt to create more money? Fast fashion brands cannot be sustainable and H and M is still a fast fashion retailer clocked with a few sustainable initiatives. Whilst they put 50 pieces for rental in one store, they will continue to produce mass fast fashion for the rest of their brand.
A greener solution...
Would be to scale back their production lines.