Brands are starting to take action. Kering has developed an innovative tool for measuring and quantifying the environmental impact of its activities. The company has been working with its suppliers to improve processes, and implement programs to protect the environment all along the supply chain. After joining WRAP’s Sustainable Clothing Action Plan, Whistles switched BCI cotton, which contributed to a reduction of over 70% in water footprint. Gap has set a water reduction goal. The company has also committed to improving water access and quality in the regions where it operates. WRAP reports that Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) signatories have made significant improvements reducing water by 13.5% per tonne of clothing since 2012.
Continental Clothing is a leader in this area: Their organic certified fabrics are dyed in a zero-discharge dyehouse, where all the water is recycled in a closed-loop system. It recently passed the Detox to Zero audit in its dye house and printing works in India. It was very enlightening because it found some heavy metals in the sludge,
even though they had been certified under GOTS and OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 Annex 6, and run a zero-discharge operation. When it comes to jeans, major retailers have made significant changes. Levi’s® has developed more than 20 innovative techniques for finishing denim, all of which use less of the precious natural resource, water. Meanwhile, Madewell’s Eco Collection uses less water, organic cotton, and sustainable dyes; and Gap has pledged to conserve 10 billion litres of water by 2020. AG Jeans, is working to create all of their products in a more sustainable way. The brand has installed more efficient machines designed to wash more product while consuming less water.
As things stand, there is no single way of measuring water usage that is used consistently within the fashion industry to measure water efficiency and conservation. Ideally, brands would use a recognised methodology such as Water Footprint Assessment. The Higg Index tool enables companies to assess a product’s environmental sustainability impacts, including water usage.