September 11, 2020
Last week Gap Inc. participated in the annual Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) World Water Week (at Home)! This year’s theme, “Water and Climate Change: Accelerating Action,” focused on the relationship between the climate crisis and our global water challenges, with an emphasis on actionable strategies for companies like ours.
Our Sustainability team joined leading organizations in conversations about how we can protect this precious natural resource. Here are our top 3 takeaways from WWW at Home.
1. Climate change disproportionately affects women and girls
While the climate crisis impacts all of us, women and girls are more likely to bear the burden, especially in regions that face extreme droughts and water scarcity. Women make up an estimated 70% of the workforce in our supply chain and in our stores. 80% of women in rural India who participated in the Gap Inc. P.A.C.E. program are responsible for fetching water according to a study conducted by the International Center for Research on Women. One trip to collect drinking water takes on average one hour a day, and over half of those surveyed make 3 or more trips a day.
Gap Inc.’s P.A.C.E. program provides training to women in our supply chain on communication, personal finance, and negotiation, in addition to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) issues. Equipped with this knowledge, women throughout rural India can use their voices to build more climate- and water-resilient communities.
2. Water scarcity has detrimental effects on the cotton industry
India is the world’s largest producer of cotton, but because of increased severe droughts due to climate change, the World Resource Institute puts India as the 13th most water stressed country in the world. India’s cotton industry already uses two times more water than the global average, most of it getting used up during irrigation processes.
India is a critical part of our supply chain, so we’re working closely through our Women + Water Alliance, a public-private partnership between Gap Inc. and USAID, to train cotton farmers (who are largely women) on better water stewardship practices. In addition, we’re working with mills like Arvind Limited, to reduce their own water intake and dependency on fresh water so that this water can be reserved for the communities in the textile industry in India. Our partner, the Institute for Sustainable Communities is working with local farmers to understand water usage, identify water new sources, and implement more water-conscious practices during farming. We’re also continuously working to source more sustainable cotton – including recycled and organic cotton.
3. Collective action is key for combating the climate crisis
Throughout the week, we heard stories on the power of working together. Representatives from our Women + Water Alliance discussed how cross-sectional collaboration is the "secret sauce” for resilience in water-stressed communities. By combining Gap Inc.’s influence in the apparel industry, the strengths and scope of USAID, and the local and technical expertise of implementing partners CARE, Water.org, WaterAid, and the Institute for Sustainable Communities to maximize impact, we leverage many areas of expertise to drive scalable, long-term solutions.