Summary: We require special treatment of the water used to launder denim made for our brands so that it doesn’t harm local waterways when it leaves the denim laundry.
What impact do jeans have on the environment? Much of the answer is in the manufacturing process.
The process of washing and finishing denim requires a significant amount of chemicals, dyes and water. If the wastewater isn’t properly treated, it pollutes rivers and streams and can harm local communities.
In the late 1990s, as part of Business for Social Responsibility's (BSR) Sustainable Water Group, Gap Inc. helped to establish clear wastewater guidelines for the presence of toxic chemicals, such as copper and mercury, in mills and laundries. It also established that factories should not produce any visible discharge or send sewage trickling into open bodies of water.
In 2004, we established our Water Quality Program to monitor denim laundries’ wastewater discharge and required them to clean up wastewater practices. We continue to measure progress against strict industry guidelines, which include standards for overall water temperature, color gradations and chemical makeup.
In December 2008, we introduced a new denim laundry policy to our suppliers. It requires that all denim laundries used for Gap Inc. branded denim meet, or show their intent to meet, our wastewater quality guidelines. The policy includes two sets of guidelines: one set for denim laundries that are new to the program to help bring them into compliance, and a second set for those with experience participating in our program.
In May 2010, we launched the Water Quality Program in 94 denim laundries with experience participating in our program, and to 10 that were new to the program. Currently, we are working with those denim laundries that are non-compliant on their corrective action plans to help bring them into compliance.
At the end of 2009, participation in this program became one of many requirements for doing business with Gap Inc., and we have set a policy that 100 percent of our branded jeans must be produced according to these standards.
2004 - 2010 Water Quality Program