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Apparel

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Sector Overview

The global apparel and textile sector designs, produces, and distributes yarn, cloth, and clothing while providing employment for more than 60 million people. It is one of the largest industries in the world, valued in the trillions.

The apparel sector uses and impacts water across the entire value chain, but the biggest water risks to apparel companies lie in cotton cultivation, fabric production, and consumer laundering, which rely on and affect significant quantities of water as well as water quality. Cotton cultivation in irrigated agricultural regions relies on water availability, introducing water risk to businesses in cases of water scarcity. The water used in agriculture can also carry excess nutrients into surrounding environments, negatively impacting local communities and ecosystems. While fabric production requires water to wash, process, and dye the yarn and cloth, the real impact on river basins has to do with water quality and pollution from dyes and other chemicals. Finally, consumer laundering uses vast quantities of water. Water risk is amplified in geographies that experience high water stress; several countries with significant apparel operations already facing water stress include China, India, USA, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Brazil.

Over the last several years, many apparel sector companies have made considerable progress on water-related operational efficiencies (including pollution reduction) within their facilities. Leading companies are now starting to re-orient their stewardship strategies to address water risks at the river basin level by collaborating with other private and public sector stakeholders. These river basin projects help address the root causes of water risk that threaten businesses, communities and ecosystems alike by establishing water stewardship partnerships that secure water for all water users. These collaborative stewardship projects also contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation.

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Organizations in Apparel


Since its inception Artistic Milliners has been a front runner in the global textile industry and has been spearheading denim innovation and sustainability. Our mission is to sustain our reputation as one of the top manufacturers in the world by ... Learn More

Burberry designs, develops, makes and sells products under the Burberry brand. The company is committed to respecting the environment, minimising the environmental impacts of our own operations and activities in our supply chain. Learn More

Cole Haan, LLC, with its Global Headquarters in Greenland, NH and Creative Center in New York City, is an iconic American lifestyle accessories brand and retailer of premium men's, women's, and children's footwear, handbags, leather accessories, outerwear and eyewear. Cole ... Learn More

The Gap, Inc., commonly known as Gap Inc. or Gap, is an American worldwide clothing and accessories retailer. Learn More

Be a leader in water stewardship for the fashion industry, working both with reducing the water footprint of our value chain and engaging to promote better water governance in strategic, high risk river basins to secure availability and quality of ... Learn More

Industria de Diseño Textil, S.A. is a Spanish multinational clothing company headquartered in Arteixo, Galicia. Inditex, the biggest fashion group in the world, operates over 7,200 stores in 93 markets worldwide. Learn More

Levi Strauss & Co. is a privately held American clothing company known worldwide for its Levi's brand of denim jeans. Learn More

MAJD ALYEMEN, Is pleased to introduce itself as one of Yemen's leading growing suppliers of industrial equipment and services to heavy industry, utility providers and contractors. We are a specialist service company that caters to the exact requirements of clients ... Learn More

Founded in 1983, Nautica is a leading water-inspired global lifestyle brand including men’s, women’s and children’s apparel and accessories and a complete home collection. At Nautica we celebrate, love and respect the water, everywhere, everyday. As a global lifestyle brand ... Learn More

NIKE, Inc., based near Beaverton, Oregon, USA, is the world's leading designer, marketer and distributor of authentic athletic footwear, apparel, equipment and accessories for a wide variety of sports and fitness activities. Wholly-owned Nike subsidiaries include Converse Inc., which designs, ... Learn More

PVH Corp, formerly known as the Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation, is an American clothing company which owns brands such as Van Heusen, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, IZOD, Arrow, and licenses brands such as Geoffrey Beene, BCBG Max Azria, Chaps, Sean John, ... Learn More

Processing hemp fibers in a sustainable way, so cotton can be replaced in textiles. Hemp uses 70-80% less water than cotton. Hemp does not need chemicals to grow, and improves the soil. Yield of hemp is much higher than cotton, ... Learn More

VF Corporation outfits consumers around the world with its diverse portfolio of iconic lifestyle brands, including Vans®, The North Face®, Timberland®, Wrangler® and Lee®. Founded in 1899, VF is one of the world’s largest apparel, footwear and accessories companies with ... Learn More

Woolworths Holdings Limited is an investment holding company, listed on the JSE Limited since 1997. It operates mainly through two subsidiaries, Woolworths (Proprietary) Limited and Country Road Limited and through a joint venture, Woolworths Financial Services (Proprietary) Limited. Caring for ... Learn More

Projects in Apparel


Burberry has been undergoing research to review the farming practices in New Zealand to better understand the risks associated with water pollution. Burberry has also engaged directly with New Zealand suppliers on this topic. A significant challenge in addressing water ... Learn More

PaCT is a partnership between textile wet processing factories in Bangladesh, international apparel buyers (C&A, H&M, Inditex, G-Star, KappAhl, Lindex, Primark, and Tesco), wet processing technology suppliers, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Dhaka), the International Finance Corporation ... Learn More

The Better Mill Initiative (BMI) aims to improve the sustainability performance of wet processing in the textile supply chain in China. The programme, initiated by Solidaridad and H&M, is a partnership between Solidaridad, brands and 60-75 textile wet processing mills ... Learn More

Businesses for Water Security in the Noyyal-Bhavani is a collaboration among the CEO Water Mandate and several apparel sector Mandate-Endorsing companies to advance apparel sector leadership in water stewardship. Apparel sector companies leading in sustainability have already made considerable progress ... Learn More

Burberry has implemented a programme working closely with the Natural Resource Defense Council's Clean By Design programme to reduce water and energy consumption at key supply chain partner facilities.This programme assesses site level water and energy efficiency and identifies opportunities ... Learn More

We are working on an agricultural climate resilience programme across fruit and vegetable growers with WWF-SA. Learn More

VISION By 2030, Noyyal and Bhavani are healthy river eco-systems that ensure water security for people and nature. The main objectives are: By 2019, establish the interactions and trade-offs between users and sectors in representative zones of the Bhavani and ... Learn More

ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY NANOCOMPOSITE SYSTEMS FOR PRE-TREATMENT OF CROP SEEDS Nanochemistry for the solution of mixed agriculture problems and improvement of environmental state Nanocomposite systems for effective feeding, elimination and preventive treatment of diseases in animals and birds on the basis ... Learn More

Farming for the future is a Woolworths developed sustainable farming methodology that focuses on soil health, water efficiency and waste water management, amongst others. The program includes some farmers in the Orange-Senqu catchment, as well as in the Breede and ... Learn More

In 2017, Inditex continued to integrate sustainability criteria for the use of water in all of its business areas, thanks to the implementation of its Global Water Management Strategy. The rational use of water and our commitment to “zero discharge” ... Learn More

In 2017, Inditex continued to integrate sustainability criteria for the use of water in all of its business areas, thanks to the implementation of its Global Water Management Strategy. The rational use of water and zero discharge commitment of undesirable ... Learn More

In 2017, Inditex continued to integrate sustainability criteria for the use of water in all of its business areas, thanks to the implementation of its Global Water Management Strategy. The rational use of water and zero discharge commitment of undesirable ... Learn More

In 2017, Inditex continued to integrate sustainability criteria for the use of water in all of its business areas, thanks to the implementation of its Global Water Management Strategy. The rational use of water and zero discharge commitment of undesirable ... Learn More

The textile project’s vision is “transforming the textile sector in Vietnam and engaging sectoral and environmental governance in order to bring social, economic and conservation benefits to the country and the entire Mekong region”. This vision will be achieved by ... Learn More

As part of our global program for direct suppliers, we ensure that compliance with waste water standards are enforced and work in improving efficiency in water intense processes such as denim production. We also screen our suppliers against publicly available ... Learn More

In order to cope with extreme droughts that may affect quality, quantity and price of water intensive raw materials, Inditex is fostering the use of materials obtained from more sustainable sources. Raw material choices are closely intertwined with our biodiversity, ... Learn More

We are participating in the Race to the Top partnership in Vietnam between other apparel brands, ILO/Better Work and the Vietnamese, Danish and Dutch governments. Race to The Top aims to build a sustainable garment industry in Vietnam through a ... Learn More

We are working to integrate more sustainable materials, which are less vulnerable to climate and other environmental impacts, into our product design and sourcing practices. We are also working to use more sustainable fabrics and raw materials (such as Gap ... Learn More

The CEO Water Mandate launched this collaboration to help companies set water stewardship targets to both address their business-related water challenges and build the resilience of the broader catchment. Crucially, the pilot project informs target-setting through a local lens: because ... Learn More

In 2011, the CEO Water Mandate and UNEP worked with Levi, Nike, H&amp;M, and Nautica on a collective action project intended to improve corporate water management among apparel companies in Cambodia and Vietnam.The project’s overarching goal was to improve water ... Learn More

It is estimated that one in five people are employed in global supply chains. Corporations have the potential to play an influential role in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6, “ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for ... Learn More

PVH is committed to working with its suppliers and other stakeholders to preserve water resources in communities where we work and live, particularly in high-risk river basins in those areas. Tommy Hilfiger’s work with WWF on the Taihu Water Stewardship ... Learn More

Burberry has flood emergency plans that are ready to be implemented. Burberry also engages with other stakeholders in the supply chain to improve the resilience of the community to water risk. Burberry has also invested in the site to improve ... Learn More

WWF’s water risk assessment identified priority regions for PVH to focus our collective action water stewardship initiatives based on the level of risk defined by the WWF’s Water Risk Filter tool and PVH's sourcing communities. One of those key locations ... Learn More

Taihu Basin in China is a typical illustration of how water risk is shared among business, government and local communities. Hundreds of international and domestic brands are headquartered or source their products from the region, nearly 10,000 textile printing and ... Learn More

In 2017, Tommy Hilfiger, in collaboration with other apparel companies, conducted water training for suppliers focused on water awareness and measuring impacts. We trained the supply base in the basin on how they contribute to water issues, and the measures ... Learn More

Women + Water Alliance CONTEXT The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Gap Inc. share a common interest in improving the health and well-being of the women, families, and communities touched by the global apparel industry through improved ... Learn More

We consider risks associated with water availability and quality in the evaluation of new real-estate or expansion opportunities (including water efficient fixtures and fittings, water-wise gardens, rainwater harvesting etc.) and are guided by our Green Building protocol to ensure that ... Learn More

Bring the water quality from “low” to “good” status (according to the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization standards), especially in highly polluted critical spots; Create a basin wide partnership with agreed conservation targets in key biodiversity areas; reduce water, chemicals ... Learn More

Suggested Resources

View the full list of 300+ resources at the Water Stewardship Toolbox

Inform and strengthen your company’s water management strategies and allow your investors to evaluate current water management activities against detailed definitions of leading practice. Learn More

Developers: Ceres

World Resource Institute's four Aqueduct assessment tools -- Water Risk Atlas, Country Rankings, Aqueduct Food, and Aqueduct Floods -- help companies, governments, and civil society understand and respond to water risks. These water risks include water stress, seasonal variability, pollution, ... Learn More

Developers: World Resources Institute

In this Nature feature, Johan Rockstrom and co-authors argue that identifying and quantifying planetary boundaries that must not be transgressed could help prevent human activities from causing unacceptable environmental change. Learn More

Chem-MAP® is a ZDHC-approved program to improve chemical management in leather, textile, and synthetic materials supply chains. The program reduces chemical risk to customers. Learn More

This report presents analysis of the response data from a sample of 783 of the world’s largest publicly listed companies. The report is aimed at companies and investors seeking to understand how they can play their part in delivering a ... Learn More

The Toolbox connects your business to the latest tools, guidance, case studies, datasets, and more most relevant to you based on your circumstances and interests. It features more than 250+ resources from dozens of organizations and is updated every week. Learn More

Developers: CEO Water Mandate, Pacific Institute

The Cotton made in Africa standards comprise the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) and the Cotton made in Africa-Organic (CmiA-Organic) Standard. The standards are intended to improve the living conditions of African smallholders and support sustainable cotton production. The standards ... Learn More

This guide aims to provide professionals with the practical information and resources to either start sourcing sustainable cotton or increase volumes. Learn More

ECO PASSPORT by OEKO-TEX is an independent certification for chemicals, colorants, and accessories used in textile and leather manufacturing. The certification verifies that each individual substance in the chemical product meets statutory requirements and does not harm human health. Learn More

The Fairtrade Cotton standard promotes sustainability and social responsiblity across the cotton supply chain. Learn More

The GEMI Local Water Tool (LWT) helps organizations evaluate water-related external impacts, business risks and sufficiency of management plans at specific sites. Key Functions: Quantify water-related impacts caused by facility Quantify facility’s exposure to water-related risk Identify helpful management response Learn More

The Global Organic Textile Standard specifies a supply-chain textile processing standard that includes ecological and social criteria. The standard seeks to define worldwide requirements for textiles to be described as organic. These requirements cover the entire supply chain, from harvesting ... Learn More

The Global Water Footprint Assessment Standard can be used to provide comparable quantification and robust analytics, helping corporations, governments, and researchers manage water resources and achieve greater water sustainability. Learn More

The Green Supply Chain: Brand Map is a leadership initiative dedicated to showcasing brands’ commitment to supply chain transparency and environmental management. Learn More

The India Water Tool brings together 20 datasets and risk indicators to help users understand their water risks in India. Learn More

This ISO Standard helps to evaluate the sustainability of a product across its life cycle. Learn More

Levi Strauss &amp; Co. has issued this standard to encourage preservation of fresh water through water recycling. Learn More

Developers: Levi Strauss & Co.

This report seeks to provide an overview of the way in which the social and economic development of continental Asia is dependent on the resources of ten rivers. Learn More

Developers: China Water Risk

One Planet Approaches consist of a family of tools, methodologies, frameworks, programs, and action plans, which recognize the need to measure and reduce human impact in relation to the absolute boundaries of the Earth system. Learn More

Levi Strauss &amp; Co. chose to publish their innovative Water&lt;Less fabric finishing techniques to encourage water-saving practices across the apparel industry. Learn More

Developers: Levi Strauss & Co.

TextileExchange's report offers personal accounts from fiber and materials experts “inside” the industry, demonstrating various company strategies and fiber priorities being implemented to achieve greater sustainability. Learn More

This report uses new data and calculations to show that investments in resource efficiency, secure work environments, and sustainable materials can benefit the environment and improve profitability. Learn More

CottonConnect's Responsible Environment Enhanced Livelihoods Cotton (REEL COTTON) standard is a business-driven initiative that sources sustainable cotton to improve environmental, quality, and traceability conditions in supply chain factories and farms worldwide. Committed brands and their supply chains undertake a development-oriented ... Learn More

SAVEh is the platform through which Ambev shares its water management system free of charge with other companies, which has helped to reduce more than 40% of the company’s water consumption in the last 13 years. This water efficiency tool ... Learn More

Developers: Ambev S/A

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Compass Business Tools inventory maps existing business tools against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It allows you to explore commonly used business tools that may be useful when assessing your organization’s impact on the SDGs. Learn More

This guide aims to help companies set effective site water targets that are informed by catchment context, which can create value and lessen risks for the company and support collective action. Learn More

Developers: CEO Water Mandate

In response to the challenge of quantifying the business benefits, WaterAid, Diageo, GAP Inc., and Unilever have worked with PwC and ODI to develop a practical, step-by-step guide. The guide will help companies understand the business value of their WASH ... Learn More

Developers: WaterAid

The Forest Stewardship Council created the Principles of Forest Stewardship as a worldwide standard to promote environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests. Learn More

The AWS Standard is a globally-applicable framework for major water users to understand their water use and impacts, and to work collaboratively and transparently for sustainable water management within a catchment context. Learn More

Developers: Alliance for Water Stewardship

This discussion paper examines the need for companies to openly acknowledge and discuss the business dependency on consumption, exploring the topic through three different product examples – cars, beef, and clothing. Learn More

‘The Five Goods’ stem from Fashion for Good’s robust definition of ‘good’ and intend to guide the sector with a genuine and accountable framework with the promise of social, economic, and environmental prosperity. Learn More

Measure the environmental and social impact of your apparel products and operations. Learn More

This case study looks closely at a pair of Levi Strauss &amp; Co. stone wash jeans with the goal of helping companies in the apparel sector take more effective and holistic approaches to the industry’s environmental impact. Learn More

Developers: Levi Strauss & Co.

This report is a culmination of industry interviews, non-government organization inputs, and desk research, the report highlights practical examples for companies in the sector and beyond, grappling with how to integrate the SDGs into their core business and global supply ... Learn More

This report explores the possibilities of scaling a circular economy, given the reality of the global economy and the complexity of multi-tier supply chains. Learn More

Developers: World Economic Forum

ToxServices' Full Materials Disclosure Screened Chemistry Program (ToxFMD®) promotes chemical optimization through chemical hazard assessment, hazard reduction, and informed substitution. ZDHC members use the program to document conformance with the ZDHC MRSL. Learn More

Evaluate the current status of access to safe WASH at the workplace in a given facility of your company. Assess the current status of access to safe WASH at the workplace in a given facility Support decision-making regarding investments and ... Learn More

ILO Sectoral Policies and Governance and Tripartism Departments present four self-training modules, which adapt existing ILO training tools on OSH to provide governments, workers and employers with the necessary skills to implement the general principles contained in relevant ILO instruments. ... Learn More

This UN World Water Development report evaluates the vast quantities of domestic, agricultural and industrial wastewater discharged into the environment everyday as a valuable resource rather than costly problem. Learn More

Companies are increasingly setting and pursing ‘water balance targets’ as part of their water stewardship strategies. The seeming simplicity of balance goals can be attractive – “we will restore a volume of water equal to the amount our business consumes.” ... Learn More

Developers: WWF

The Water Risk Filter can be used to assess and respond to water related risks for your own operations, suppliers, or growth plans. Learn More

Developers: WWF

These guidelines intend to help close the knowledge gap on wastewater treatment technologies and motivate relevant facilities in the apparel and footwear industry to implement the professional treatment systems necessary to meet the ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines. Learn More

World Resources Institute Learn More

CEO Water Mandate; CDP; The Nature Conservancy; World Resources Institute; WWF Learn More

The Sustainable Business Group; The Sustainable Fashion Academy; The Global Leadership Award in Sustainable Apparel Learn More

Swedish Textile Water Initiative Learn More

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