Honoring Earth Day Is More Important Than Ever
by Melissa Fifield, Sr. Director of Global Sustainability
Business as usual for all of us has been interrupted as the world grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic, and as we come together to address the crisis, Gap Inc. is working to do our part. Meanwhile, as we honor the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the skies reveal more blue and the waters run more clear as a result of our global, collective action to slow down. For the first time in recent history, people are watching fish swim in the canals of Venice, Italy and gazing at the Himalayan mountains in India.
In the spirit of reflecting on what’s possible, I’m proud to share some highlights of how we’re working to lessen our impact on the planet and create a more sustainable world.
Gap Inc. recently reached our 2020 goal of saving 10 billion liters of water through product innovation and strategic business partnerships. Partnerships within and across industries are pivotal to addressing the urgent need to protect the environment. Last year, Gap Inc. and our longtime sourcing partner, Arvind Limited, invested in a water treatment facility which eliminates the use of freshwater at Arvind’s denim mill in Ahmedabad, India. The facility saves more than 1.7 billion liters of water annually to preserve the local community’s vital freshwater resources. The project is especially impactful as the mill and treatment facility are located in a region suffering from severe drought. In addition, our two companies will open an innovation center (timing to be determined given current circumstances and local conditions) in India to promote industry-wide, proven techniques and technology that reduce water use in textile manufacturing.
Additionally, this March, Gap Inc. cofounded the United Nations CEO Water Mandate’s Water Resiliency Coalition, along with AB InBev, Diageo, Dow Inc., Ecolab, Microsoft and PVH Corp., as an industry-wide call to action to reduce water stress by 2050.
We’re continuously innovating and using new technologies to reduce water used in the manufacturing of our products. Our Washwell™ program includes denim wash technology and techniques that save at least 20 percent or more water when compared to conventional wash methods. Since 2016, product made with the Washwell® process has saved over one billion liters of water. And Banana Republic is partnering with the Spanish denim mill Tejidos Royo to use the innovative dyeing technique Dry Indigo® which can reduce water usage by up to 99 percent (it uses just one teaspoon of water per pair of jeans!), uses 89 percent less chemicals, and reduces energy consumption by 65 percent.
While ensuring the safety of our employees and the communities in which we do business is our number one priority, our family of brands remain committed to honoring the environment on Earth Day and every day. Here are a few of the ways our brands are celebrating this year:
- Athleta is offering Earth Day T-shirts, and 70% of the brand’s products are currently made using more sustainable fibers.
- Banana Republic introduced BETTER REPUBLIC – a forward-thinking ideal that underscores the company’s sustainability goals and commitment to do better for people and the planet.
- Banana Republic Factory unveiled their 2025 sustainability commitments alongside their new organic cotton collection.
- Gap brand introduced Bettermade Denim, their most sustainable denim yet. The collection features iconic denim pieces made from organic cotton and finished with 100% recycled thread.
- Hill City offers an organic cotton hoodie, perfect for all-day comfort.
- Old Navy’s Heart Earth campaign celebrates recycling 85,000 lbs of plastic through the hanger recycling program and manufacturing 88% of denim with water-saving techniques.
At the heart of all these efforts is our fundamental belief that environmental issues are people issues. We believe that access to clean water is a human right and the past few weeks have illustrated like never before, the need for all of us, everywhere, to have access to water to practice the most basic defense against the coronavirus: handwashing. Our P.A.C.E program, which has so far provided life-skills and educational trainings to over 500,000 women and girls around the world, includes curriculum focused on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). This work is key to our Women + Water strategy, and our partnership in the USAID Gap Inc. Women + Water Alliance in India which both seek to address water challenges through the lens of people and human rights. We believe that business collaboration at a local level with people and their communities is at the core of building a more resilient future.
Scientists warn that a warming planet that includes shifting weather patterns and impacts to biodiversity and wildlife could increase the risk for more dangerous pandemics like Covid-19 in the future. In addition to reducing our water footprint, Gap Inc. is also committed to reducing our carbon emissions by ramping up our use of wind and solar power and working to eliminate single-use plastics.
Having recently marked Gap Inc.’s 50th anniversary and as we think about our next 50 years, one thing rings true: we’re on this Earth together and we all have a part to play to protect each other and our shared home.
Happy Earth Day to you, your family, and your communities!