German discount supermarkets Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud have committed to responsible use of water in their textile supply chains. 

The commitment is part of a joint water protection policy between the two businesses, where one area of focus is on the fruit and vegetable supply chain while the other is on textiles. Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud have also joined the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), which is thought to be the world's largest network for the sustainable use of water.

"Water is a livelihood for all living things and is also a very important resource for the production of our products," explains Dr Julia Adou, head of corporate responsibility at Aldi Sud. "Together with our suppliers and partners, we want to treat water responsibly. It is important for us to minimise the risks along our supply chains, optimise our water management and at the same time improve the water quality. That's why we've set clear action in our water conservation policy."

Specifically, the groups will look to reduce the water footprint of the fibres used in its textiles, cotton, in particular, a spokesperson for Aldi Sud and Aldi Nord told just-style.

As part of its participation in the Eurpean Clothing Action plan, the groups will examine the water footprint of their textile supply chains. They plan to increase their use of OCS, GOTS and BCI certified, sustainable cotton. They will also increase the use of recycled cotton.

And Aldi Sud an Aldi Nord are currently engaged in a two-year project supporting cooperatives in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in increasing the use of non-GM seeds for organic and Fairtrade cotton.

A further objective is reducing the pollution of wastewater in wet finishing. While the use of APEOs and PFC has been prohibited for the production of Aldi products since 2016, it will be expanding this to exclude "particularly critical" chemicals from production processes by 2020.

It is also promoting the use of materials that can be produced without discharging wastewater such as environmentally-friendly artificial leather. Where real leather is used, its sourcing will be limited to Leather Working Group approved suppliers only.

As well as analysing wastewater and sludge to identify harmful substances used in wet processing and conducting chemical management audits and training measures in wet-processing facilities, the groups are introducing water-saving methods such as dope-dyeing technology for polyester and using zero liquid discharge production facilities that recycle water and reuse it within the system.

Erik Hollmann, head of corporate responsibility at Aldi North adds: "We are one of the largest food and textile retailers and therefore bear a great responsibility. A binding water conservation policy is therefore only logical and our incentive to consistently work on reducing our water risk. Discounters are further expanding their existing water protection activities, for example in the textile supply chain. Here, Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud have been able to reduce their water footprint by more than 12% since 2016 through the use of environmentally friendly fibres."