Water Stewardship

Water in a dam

Our water stewardship strategy is built on our belief that access to clean, safe water is both a fundamental human right and an environmental responsibility.

Water is vital to the health and well-being of the people who make our products – the majority of whom are women – and the communities and natural resources we rely on.  We have a responsibility and an opportunity to address water issues as a critical natural resource for our business—used to cultivate raw materials like cotton, consumed in the mills and laundries that manufacture our products, and used by consumers when they wash their clothes.

Our Water Stewardship work aims to reduce our water footprint within sourcing and manufacturing, as well as to strengthen community water resilience outside our immediate supply chain in collaboration with other stakeholders that rely on the shared water resources.

Goals

Progress

By 2023

Empower 2 million people—including 1 million women—with improved access to water and sanitation through the USAID Gap Inc. Women + Water Alliance

2021 

1.5 million people reached

 

By 2050

Water-resilient value chain by 2050

Net-positive water impact in water-stressed regions by 2050

2021 

Establishing Baselines

 

 

2021 CDP Water Score: A-

Our Approach

After exceeding our ambitious goal to conserve 10 billion liters of water by 2020 from a 2014 baseline, we set new goals to create a water-resilient value chain and net positive water impact.

Our programs and collaborations are designed to tackle different water challenges holistically, mobilize broader business action and raise awareness of these critical issues. For our Water Stewardship strategy, we focus on three interconnected areas:

  1. Community Water Resilience – supported by the Women + Water Alliance
  2. Resource Efficiency and Manufacturing – supported by our Mill Sustainability and Water Quality Programs
  3. Raw Materials and Product – supported by our Washwell process

Resource Efficiency and Manufacturing

Since water issues vary dramatically based on local context, we have mapped all preferred wet-processing facilities—representing 65 percent of our business—against the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Water Risk Filter and World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas. This helps us increase transparency, prioritize focus areas, set more ambitious targets and improve water impacts across our supply chain. We are working with WWF to set context-based water targets for 30 strategic wet-processing facilities as a stepping stone towards a science-based target for water.

We work with mills and laundries to improve practices to reduce water and harmful chemicals use, often leveraging industry partnerships, such as the Apparel Impact Institute (Aii), to pilot programs and further our impact. For more information on our water savings to date, please see our latest report.

To activate our resource efficiency and manufacturing work, we have two Gap Inc.-led programs:

  • Water Quality Program (WQP): Since 2004, we have actively monitored and improved wastewater quality and chemicals management at denim laundries. We are working to expand our Water Quality Program to all Tier 1 wet processing facilities by 2024.
  • Mill Sustainability Program: All strategic mills are required to participate in our Mill Sustainability Program, which establishes clear environmental standards, increases transparency, drives innovation and aligns our approach with industry efforts including Social & Labor Convergence Program (SLCP) and ILO Better Work.

The Water Quality Program and the Mill Sustainability Program address water impacts in manufacturing through:

  • Environmental Management & Performance: As a founding member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), we use the Higg Index to evaluate suppliers’ environmental performance and engage them to meet our goals. Since 2017, we have expanded our use of the Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM) to collect data from Tier 1 and Tier 2 supplier self-assessments. Increasingly, these self-assessments are verified by a third party. For more information on our Higg FEM responses, please see our SASB Index.
  • Wastewater and Chemicals Management: We have adopted the ZDHC Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) and the ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines. Facilities that participate in our Water Quality Program or our Mill Sustainability Program are required to test their wastewater and meet a minimum performance standard, as well as register for and use an accepted chemicals management platform to track and share chemical inventory information with us.

Using Reclaimed Wastewater at Arvind Limited’s Denim Mill 

One of the ways we’re reducing our water footprint is through an innovative partnership with Arvind Limited, a leading textile manufacturer based in India.

Through this collaboration, Arvind’s denim manufacturing facility Ahmedabad operates entirely with reclaimed water using a membrane bio reactor water treatment technology to clean reclaimed wastewater from the surrounding community. This saves 2 billion liters of freshwater annually, which helps preserve the community’s vital resource. This process also supports sustainability by using a chemical-free treatment method to clean the wastewater.

Raw Materials and Product: Washwell™

Our brands are reducing water impacts through the expansion of Washwell™, which reduces the water used in garment dyeing and finishing by at least 20 percent compared to conventional methods. Laundries involved in production of Washwell™ styles are also required to participate in our Water Quality Program. Since its 2016 launch by Gap brand, Washwell™ has been adopted by Athleta, Old Navy and Banana Republic. We also have resources like our Preferred Fibers Toolkit to help employees expand the use of sustainable raw materials with a positive water impact, and we connect our design decisions with manufacturing improvements and innovative dye techniques, enabling us to save water in our supply chain while educating our consumers.

Partnerships for Advocacy and Industry Change

We collaborate in several initiatives to address water scarcity and improve access to water and sanitation:

  • Water Resilience Coalition (WRC): WRC aims to positively impact water in 100 basins worldwide and to enable sustainable access to drinking water and sanitation to 300 million people by 2030.  
  • WASH4Work: This UN Global Compact program mobilizes business action on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6—access to clean water—in the workplace, in communities and across supply chains.  
  • World Water Day: Every year, Gap Inc. hosts a World Water Day Walk for Water, through which several thousand employees walk 1.2 miles—the average distance women in water-stressed regions must walk to the nearest water source to collect water, often multiple times per day.  
  • SIWI World Water Week: Each August, we join partners and industry peers in discussions on topics such as how to build community water resilience, how corporate water strategies can drive business value and how to source cotton sustainably.
  • Ceres Connect the Drops: This group leverages corporate voices to advocate for policies that safeguard access to water in California, a water-stressed state and home to Gap Inc. headquarters.
  • Water Innovation Center for Apparel: Together with global textile manufacturer Arvind Limited, we are building an 18,000-square-foot Water Innovation Center for Apparel in India. The center will showcase water-management best practices and recycling technologies.