• Gap Inc and Arvind Limited are joining forces to try to reduce the apparel industry's water use and drive water-saving innovation.
  • The plans include a new innovation hub for apparel companies, suppliers and vendors to advance and scale water stewardship across the sector.
  • They will also invest in a new water treatment facility that will eliminate the use of fresh water at Arvind's denim mill in Ahmedabad.
When completed, the new innovation centre will serve as a hub to share knowledge and advance water stewardship

When completed, the new innovation centre will serve as a hub to share knowledge and advance water stewardship

US specialty apparel retailer Gap Inc is teaming up with Arvind Limited, its longtime sourcing and franchise partner in India, to open a new innovation centre highlighting solutions to reduce water use in the textile manufacturing industry.

The collaboration will also see the two companies invest in a new water treatment facility that will eliminate the use of fresh water at Arvind's denim mill in Ahmedabad, India. The facility, the companies say, will save 3bn litres of fresh water by the end of 2020 and preserve the local community's freshwater resources.

The apparel industry is one of the most intensive users of water in the world and is facing pressure to reduce its demand for fresh water. In India, for example, an estimated 54% of the population faces a high to extremely high water risk.

When it opens in 2020, the new centre will act as an innovation hub for apparel companies, manufacturing suppliers and vendors, sustainability experts, academics, and other environmental stakeholders. Once completed, the hub will generate scalable solutions that can be replicated at other mills and laundries.

The 18,000 sq ft space will feature installations that showcase water management best practices and recycling technologies, a library, lab space to develop water management solutions, along with classroom training and conference space. 

"The world is facing a water crisis, and Gap Inc is committed to finding meaningful, scalable ways to reduce our water use," says said Art Peck, president and chief executive officer, Gap Inc.

"Traditionally, manufacturing apparel has been a water intensive, water wasting process. This partnership with Arvind Limited is an important step towards changing that, and we look forward to collaborating across the industry to accelerate the transformation to more efficient and sustainable water use practices."

Arvind's denim mill in Ahmedabad – the first mill in India to manufacture denim – currently consumes 8m litres of fresh water every day. Once constructed, the new water treatment facility will replace 100% of its freshwater use with reclaimed water.

Specifically, the new facility will use Membrane Bio Reactor (MBR) technology to treat domestic wastewater drawn from the surrounding community without the use of chemicals in the treatment process, resulting in a cleaner, more sustainable process.

The facility is currently under construction and is expected to be commissioned by September. Beyond eliminating the use of fresh water at the denim mill, the facility will also reduce business risk for Arvind, Gap, and the other brands that source from the mill due to local water scarcity challenges.

"Arvind is committed to eliminating the use of fresh water from its textile production operations," says Punit Lalbhai, executive director of Arvind Limited.

"We have made significant investments in water reduction and recycling activities over the past two decades. Gap is our key strategic customer and this partnership is valuable for us to achieve our water goals collectively. The partnership will also help in expanding the scope of water savings to the broader industry through the Center of Excellence."

Last year Gap Inc unveiled a new sustainable manufacturing goal to conserve a total of 10bn litres of water by the end of 2020. Through product design innovation and partnering with fabric mills and laundries, the company now says it has saved more than 5.7bn litres of water. And because cotton is an extremely water-intensive fibre, Gap Inc. began sourcing cotton from the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) in 2016 to support the improvement of cotton farming practices globally. The company recently announced all cotton for its brands will come from sustainable sources by 2025

Likewise, Arvind's sustainability strategy, 'Fundamentally Right,' revolves around an input management approach with the goal to make all key inputs 100 percent sustainable. Water is one key input, and Arvind plans to eliminate the use of fresh water from its textile production by the end of 2020. Currently, 65% of the company's water use is from recycled sources. Once completed, the new treatment facility is expected to help the company achieve 90% from recycled sources. Arvind also has what is said to be the largest sustainable cotton farm operation in India for a textile mill.