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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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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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