Women+Water: Doing Our Part to Address the Global Water Crisis
by Melissa Fifield, Sr. Director, Global Sustainability
When you think of a company the size of Gap Inc., saving water may seem like a daunting task. And, it is! It's not always easy to know how our company can make quality, on-trend jeans and Ts while also making sure it's done ethically and in a way that protects natural resources for future generations. But that doesn't stop us from trying.
At Gap Inc., we believe water is a human right, and we take seriously our responsibility as a global business to make a positive impact. One of the most critical and urgent challenges we face is water. Today, the global water crisis leaves more than one in six people worldwide without access to clean and safe water; and unfortunately, women — who are at the heart of our business — are most affected by water issues.
I'm proud that Gap Inc. has always been committed to doing business in a way that is not only good for customers, but also good for the communities where we live and work. In my role as the head of our Sustainable Innovation team, we're working with leaders across our global enterprise to identify and test solutions that will help us continuously improve on our performance, including reducing our water footprint.
In celebration of World Water Day, I'm proud to share that Gap Inc.'s suppliers have saved more than 750 million liters of water since 2014 – that's enough to provide every person in the US with one days' worth of drinking water. And we plan to help them save an additional 1 billion liters of water in 2017.
Well, it always starts with people – we estimate that through our value chain, we touch the lives of 2 million people – this includes those who touch our business from cotton and fabric production, to those who cut and sew our garments. Eighty percent of those people are women.
It's imperative to us that we invest in programs that not only ensure that the people who make our clothes work in safe, fair conditions but also that they are treated with dignity and respect. Through our Code of Vendor Conduct, we ensure that the individuals who work in our factories have access to safe drinking water, and sanitary and functional toilets, among other fundamental safeguards.
Through our Women + Water program, we're working to help communities touched by our business improve access to clean water and sanitation. We've integrated water, sanitation & hygiene (WASH) curriculum into our P.A.C.E. program, and have partnered with organizations such as WaterAid, Water Health International and Swasti on a variety of initiatives to support community WASH awareness, education and water access in India.
We also have an opportunity to design our products in ways that use less water in manufacturing. Gap's Washwell program, for example, reduces the amount of water used to finish denim, saving more than 30 million liters of water to date. And because cotton can be an extremely water-intensive fiber, last year Gap Inc. made a commitment to the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) to support the improvement of cotton farming practices globally. Since 2016, Gap Inc. has sourced more than 11.5 million pounds of Better Cotton – enough to make 7.4 million pairs of jeans.
I'm incredibly proud and humbled by our progress to date, but I know we still have a lot more to do. Cheers, and thank you to you and all of our partners who have helped us along this journey!