The demand for water across the world is ever growing, and fashion is a thirsty industry. From growing cotton, to dyeing fabrics to create the colours we love to wear — all have an impact on water resources.
We are reliant on water and are putting in place ways to protect water resources within our business and through our supply chains.
We track the volume of water we use in our stores and offices globally to understand our total consumption and minimise it where possible. In FY20 we used 38,946m3 of water across 34 offices and 248 stores, average of 138m3 per location.
Within our supply chain, there are two main ways we know we can have a significant impact on our water footprint. The first is in the choice fibres we use to make our garments, and second is in how we dye, wash, and finish our garments to get the right colours, softness, and look.
The good news is that there are an increasing number of lower impact options out there which enables us to lower our water footprint.
We plan to recycle and reduce 40% of water used to produce our garments by 2030.
Our plan focuses on two core strategies:
1. Selecting the right low impact fibres & tracking their impact
Growing and producing fibres we use in our products – from Cotton through to Polyester – accounts for a significant part of the product’s overall water footprint. We are focusing on switching to materials which consume less water during production, such as Organic Cotton, Linen and Tencel.
Switching to organic farming methods: From initial mapping of the raw materials we use, we know our largest water footprint is from Cotton which we use in two out of three of the garments we produce. Switching to Organic has a significant impact on the amount of water used in the production of Cotton, reducing raw material water consumption by 60-90%. This is one of the reasons that we are so passionate about converting to Organic Cotton - 19% of our Cotton has already switched, with all pure cotton garments moving to Organic by 2025.
Closing the loop on garment waste: Increasing the amount of fabric waste we recycle, notably in closed loop systems. We already recycle enough fabric waste from some of our Turkish factories to create 1.3 million T-Shirts – with an estimated saving of 2,987 million litres of water compared to conventional virgin materials – read more from our Sustainable Stories here. Our aim is to grow this programme in Turkey and expand into India and China.
2. Working with our suppliers & wet processing units to minimise their impact in production
We are working closely with our suppliers to ensure that water is used as efficiently as possible within the factories that make our products.
Efficient technologies and processes: There is some amazing innovation happening in this space, including the development of closed loop systems and eco wash technology which can reduce the water consumption of the wash process by over 80%. 11% of the garments we produced in FY20 were made in factories utilising eco wash technology, and we expect to see this increase in FY21.
We are also working with our suppliers to ensure they are utilising the best possible technology to harvest water, with 31% of our factories already utilising rainwater harvesting systems.
Ongoing risk assessment: As part of our supply chain water risk assessment, we mapped the locations of our factories using the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Water Scarcity database.
While 48% factories are in areas of low to moderate water stress, 52% of our factories operate where there is moderate to high water scarcity. We therefore prioritise suppliers based on levels of water scarcity – 44% of factories located in regions experiencing moderate to high water stress have installed technology to harvest and save water to date and we will continue to extend this programme into all factories.
We know that reducing our water footprint is essential, and we want to lead positive change by collaborating with our suppliers and partners to conserve this precious natural resource.
Further information on our approach to chemical compliance is available here.