Swedish apparel retailer H&M has joined forces with conservation and environmental advocacy group WWF to publish two investigative reports supporting strong action on water and good water governance in Bangladesh.

The two reports, one of which launched last week and the other which is set to launch in April, point out that textile and leather processing in Bangladesh is having significant impacts on water resources, sometimes leading to environmental degradation and potential health problems for local people. 

Bangladesh is one of the largest producers of clothing for many fashion brands, H&M being one of them, and the apparel sector is vital for the Bangladesh economy. 

The reports highlight that while the Bangladesh government has introduced ambitious water regulations to combat the issue, it still lacks the institutional alignment to fully implement policies and the resources to monitor and prosecute violations.

"Bangladesh has made impressive progress in growing enough food for its people, but food security is now under threat from water issues," says Laila Petrie of WWF International, co-author of the reports. "Additionally, water and sanitation goals still require focus – sources suggest that more than 25 million people lack access to clean drinking water and 66 million do not have hygienic toilet facilities."

The first report focuses on water governance and the challenges and opportunities around policy, institutional function and implementation for a sustainable water future, while the second focuses on economic outcomes from water scenarios.

"H&M has a strong link with the Bangladeshi apparel sector, and has invested in the long-term future of Bangladesh," says Shariful Hoque, environmental manager for H&M Bangladesh. "We see that at site, industry and national level, water issues need to be taken seriously in order to support the growth of the apparel industry in Bangladesh. We support the work that WWF and other organisations do to address these water issues."

The report on water governance and full details on WWF's work in Bangladesh can be found here.