• Gap Inc has pledged to conserve 10bn litres of water by the end of 2020.
  • The retailer says product innovation and efficiency improvements at fabric mills and laundries will be key to savings.
  • Gap has already saved 2.4bn litres of water through its company led projects since 2014.
Gap has already saved 2.4bn litres of water through its company led projects since 2014

Gap has already saved 2.4bn litres of water through its company led projects since 2014

US speciality retailer Gap Inc has committed to conserve 10bn litres of water by the end of 2020 and says product innovation and efficiency improvements at fabric mills and laundries will be key to savings.

The new sustainable manufacturing goal – which would see Gap save the equivalent volume of the daily drinking water need for 5bn people – is part of the retailer's water stewardship strategy, which includes a focus on lessening the impact at the raw materials and product design level as well as helping communities touched by its business improve access to clean water and sanitation.

"Water is critical to nearly all aspects of our business, and we recognise the responsibility and the opportunity we have to reduce the amount of water used to create our products," says Christophe Roussel, executive vice president of global sourcing at Gap Inc. "Leveraging the power of product innovation and improved manufacturing practices, we can help ensure that our customers not only look great in their favourite jeans and T-shirts, but also feel good about how their purchases are helping to make a positive impact for communities and helping to tackle global water scarcity."

In recent years, Gap has steadily ramped up its efforts to help drive water efficiency improvements at the mill and laundry level. In 2013, the company launched a Mill Sustainability Programme to improve social and environmental practices of fabric mills and encourages its suppliers to conduct environmental footprint assessments, including water use, using the Sustainable Apparel Coalition's (SAC) Higg Index. It also actively monitors and helps improve wastewater quality at denim laundries through its strengthened Water Quality Program, which was first launched in 2004 to help ensure that wastewater from denim laundries is properly treated.

At the product level, meanwhile, the Gap brand has pioneered a smart denim wash programme called Washwell that reduces water use by 20% or more. Since the programme began in 2016, Washwell has saved more than 100m litres of water.

"We believe that access to clean and safe drinking water is a fundamental human right, so we strive to ensure that the process of making our clothes is safe for people and communities. It's not only the right thing for people and the planet, it's also crucial for our business growth," adds David Hayer, senior vice president of global sustainability and president of Gap Foundation at Gap Inc.

To ensure a broader impact, Gap is also working with other leading brands to advocate for the implementation of more environmentally responsible manufacturing practices. This includes working to help scale the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)'s Clean by Design program, which is focused on helping mills improve their operational efficiencies to reduce water, energy and chemical use, and serving as a founding member of the SAC's Apparel Impact Institute.

The San Francisco-based retailer is also a member of the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Programme and a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact CEO Water Mandate.

Meanwhile, through its Gap Inc Women and Water programme, the company is working to help communities touched by its business improve access to clean water and sanitation, and has integrated water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) curriculum into its P.A.C.E. programme, partnering with organisations such as WaterAid on a variety of initiatives to support community WASH awareness, education and water access in India.

Last week, Gap said it is encouraging all 800 of its tier 1 supplier factories to pay garment workers digitally by 2020, in a move that will help improve supply chain transparency and efficiency.

Gap sets new goal for suppliers to pay workers digitally