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.

As part of our commitment to enriching communities, our Water Stewardship work aims to support water resilience in regions touched by our value chain by improving access to clean water and sanitation, reducing water use in manufacturing and company operations, and supporting watershed health to create a positive impact in nature and communities.



By 2030

Empower 5 million people touched by the apparel industry to improve their equitable access to clean
water and sanitation


Reduce water use and replenish water to nature, equivalent to 100% of the water used in manufacturing apparel and in our company-operated facilities


2.5 million people reached since 2017



15% - In 2022,we reduced or replenished 4.8 billion liters total, and consumed 33 billion liters in supply chain manufacturing and company operations.

By 2050

Water-resilient value chain by 2050

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


Building roadmaps to achieve intermediary 2030 goals



2023 CDP Water Score: B

Our Approach

After exceeding our ambitious goal to conserve 10 billion liters of water by 2020 from a 2014 baseline, we set new 2030 goals as key milestones on the path to achieve a net positive impact in water-stressed basins and to create a water-resilient value chain by 2050.

Our programs and collaborations tackle water challenges holistically, mobilize business action and raise awareness of critical water issues. Our Water Stewardship strategy focuses on three interconnected areas

  1. Access: Improve access to clean drinking water and sanitation in communities touched by the apparel industry
  2. Reduction: Reduce water use in manufacturing processes and in our owned and operated facilities
  3. Replenishment: Replenish and restore water in natural ecosystems in priority water-stressed basins2 where cotton is grown, where our clothing is manufactured, and where customers and employees live


We believe access to water is a human right, and yet decreasing availability of clean water is a significant challenge in many parts of the world. Today, a third of the world’s population live in countries with poor water quality or where there is not enough water. 

Gap Inc. aims to improve long-term, sustained access to clean drinking water and sanitation in communities touched by the apparel industry.  We recognize that water resiliency and women’s empowerment are inextricably linked, as women in many of our sourcing countries face a disproportionate burden of managing household water needs and often need to walk miles to collect water every day. Our Water Access initiatives catalyze women as active participants and leaders in advancing locally driven improvements to water access, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in their communities.

This journey for Gap Inc. began with a pioneering global development partnership, the USAID Gap Inc. Women + Water Alliance.  Between 2017-2023, the Women + Water Alliance empowered more than 2.4 million people in India to improve their access to clean water and sanitation.

In 2023, Gap Inc., in partnership with WaterAid, the Water Resilience Coalition, and other corporates launched the Women + Water Collaborative, a collective action initiative that builds upon the success of the USAID Gap Inc. Women + Water Alliance to improve health, livelihoods and climate resilience in water-stressed communities in India with shared goals, metrics and governance to provide access to clean water and sanitation in the same communities. 

With a challenge as widespread and complex as long-term access to clean water and sanitation, multiple types of partnerships will be essential.  Innovative financing is an effective way to amplify impact at scale.  Gap Inc. partnered alongside global companies and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to invest in WaterEquity’s Global Access Fund IV, which supports financial institutions and enterprises in emerging markets to scale their water and sanitation lending activities, such as loans that enable low-income and marginalized customers to install household water and sanitation solutions, and also generate positive returns on investment. 

It is through collective action partnerships such as these - with leading nonprofits, institutions at the global, national, and local levels, private sector companies, and community stakeholders - that we aim to empower 5 million people with sustained and equitable access to climate-resilient WASH services by 2030. 


Gap Inc. continues to strive to lessen our water footprint by partnering with suppliers to reduce freshwater1 use in apparel manufacturing processes and by prioritizing efficiency in Gap Inc.’s company-operated facilities.  

Water stress is a highly localized issue, so Gap Inc. collaborated with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to identify where to prioritize action by using tools like the WWF’s Water Risk Filter, and developed and developed guidance to aid supply chain partners in high water-stressed regions to set Contextual Water Targets based on their local water risks. 

To progress towards those water reduction targets, Gap Inc. will continue to work with suppliers and partners to implement water efficiency improvements through our work with the Apparel Impact Institute (Aii); reduce harmful chemicals and manage wastewater responsibly; expand the use of programs like Washwell that reduce water use in garment finishing by at least 20% compared to conventional wash methods; and help reduce dependency on freshwater by supporting adoption of innovative water treatment and recycled water solutions. Going further, Gap Inc. aims to help elevate water management across the apparel industry through a new Global Water Innovation Center for Action, which launched in 2023 in partnership with India-based supplier Arvind Limited to showcase water reduction best practices for apparel manufacturing and develop open source new technologies and solutions.

Our resource efficiency and manufacturing work is driven by 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 

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

  • Environmental Management & Performance: As a founding member of Cascale (formerly the Sustainable Apparel Coalition), 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.

Our brands are reducing water impacts at the product level through:

  • Washwell™: This program 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. 
  • Resources for designers: Resources like our Preferred Fibers Toolkit 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.

(1) Freshwater includes ground, surface, municipal and rainwater used in Gap Inc. manufacturing processes​

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 1-2 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.


To tackle our freshwater consumption, we must look beyond water reductions. For the remaining water that does get consumed in manufacturing and Gap Inc.’s company facilities, we will replenish the equivalent amount in high water-stressed regions touched by our business. We will work to strengthen priority watersheds in our value chain to reduce business risk from climate change through collective action initiatives such as projects that address watershed regeneration and conservation of nature, as well as farmer trainings that encourage regenerative principles and other good water management practices in their cotton fields. We are developing a portfolio of replenishment projects that support water availability and quality—with additional benefits for ecosystem restoration, biodiversity, and community water access with an emphasis on inclusion and gender equity—to strengthen water and climate resilience. We will use the World Resource Institute’s Volumetric Water Based Accounting methodology and other best practice frameworks to measure our impact, and we will ground our initiatives in situational analyses and community-driven solutions.

Partnerships For Advocacy And Industry Change

We believe that collaboration will have a multiplier effect in addressing the water crisis, so we will continue to work closely with partners across sectors, nonprofits, vendors across the supply chain, and local community stakeholders. Through its partnerships and engagements in key initiatives, Gap Inc. is committed to continuous learning, adoption of best practices, and collective action to help achieve meaningful impact at scale.

We collaborate in several water related initiatives and forums:

  • UN CEO Water Mandate: Since 2016 Gap Inc. has been an endorser of the CEO Water Mandate, a special initiative of the UN Secretary-General and the UN Global Compact that mobilizes business leaders to address global water challenges through corporate water stewardship. In 2023 Gap Inc. signed onto its Business Leaders’ Open Call to Accelerate Action on Water.
  • Water Resilience Coalition (WRC): Gap Inc. is a founding member of the WRC, which 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. 
  • Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS): As an AWS member, Gap Inc. contributes to the sustainability of local water resoures through adoption of the AWS best practices along the supply chain.
  • World Water Day: Every year, Gap Inc. hosts a World Water Day Walk for Water, through which 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.
  • Global Water Innovation Center for Action: Together with global textile manufacturer Arvind Limited, we launched 18,000-square-foot water innovation center for apparel in India. The center showcases water-management best practices and recycling technologies.