Four Ways Gap Inc. is Helping Bridge the Divide Between Women and Water
by Melissa Fifield, Senior Director of Sustainable Innovation
September 21, 2018
Last month, the world’s experts on water gathered in Stockholm, Sweden for the annual conference known as World Water Week
. Gap Inc. was there too – to share what we know about the impacts of water stress on our business and how we are working to address them, and to also learn how to contribute to greater change by combining our efforts with other like-minded companies and organizations.
Here are four ways Gap Inc. is taking responsibility for our own water footprint, and working to improve access to clean and safe water in the communities where our products are made:
- Cotton. This natural fiber is well-loved and used in a majority of the products made by our brands – but we also recognize that it is one of the most water-intensive crops grown on the planet. In fact, 64% of water used in the lifecycle of a pair of denim jeans is to grow cotton. Since 2016, Gap Inc.’s brands have sourced 192 million pounds of cotton from the Better Cotton Initiative, and we continue to scale our partnership. The organization focuses on improving the environmental and water impacts of cotton, as well as the social impacts on the farmers who grow the cotton – so it’s a win-win-win for the planet, farmers and brands like ours.
- Manufacturing. Water is also necessary for dyeing fabric and giving your favorite jeans that “lived in” look. Gap Inc. Is taking action on our own and in partnership with other well-known apparel brands to improve water efficiency in fabric mills across our supply chain. In fact, we’ve set a goal to reduce water used in manufacturing by 10 billion liters by 2020, and we’re well on our way, having saved more than five billion liters in partnership with our suppliers since 2014. For example, Gap Inc.’s namesake brand, Gap, has developed its signature Washwell program, which reduces the amount of water necessary in the finishing of denim by 20%; the program has saved 165 million liters of water since 2016. Additionally, we’re working with other companies committed to water stewardship through the CEO Water Mandate on an apparel sector initiative to identify opportunities to drive collective action in areas where multiple industries rely on shared water resources.
- Women. The apparel industry relies on millions of people who make our garments in factories around the world -- 80% of whom are women. Our P.A.C.E. program was launched in 2007, enabling women to learn valuable life skills that help them succeed in their work and in their communities. Included in the P.A.C.E. curriculum is a module focused on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) education. We know that when women are educated about safe water handling practices, incidents of illness and disease decline, creating opportunities for women to earn income for their families, and their children to go to school (IPSOS research). In partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), we’ve also developed a public-private alliance to help reach more women through the P.A.C.E. program and support access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services to improve and sustain the health and well-being of women and communities touched by the apparel industry in India.
- Collaboration. Collaboration is critical for greater impact. We partnered with WaterAid, Unilever and Diageo to develop a business case for private sector engagement on WASH as well as a toolkit to encourage other companies to take steps to ensure the people working in their supply chains have sufficient water, sanitation and hygiene.
to learn more about our water stewardship efforts.