Improving Manufacturing at Mills and Laundries

Improving Manufacturing at Mills and Laundries Improving environmental practices and benefitting communities

Some of the most important environmental impacts related to making our clothes come from fabric mills, which use a great deal of water, chemicals and energy during the dyeing and finishing process. Mills demonstrate how environmental practices carry a direct link to people’s health and wellbeing. Wastewater must be treated before being returned to the surrounding environment to ensure that both ecosystems and nearby communities are protected.

Reducing impacts at mills

Our Mill Sustainability Program establishes clear environmental standards for fabric mills to protect people and communities.

Traditional fabric mills use a great deal of water and chemicals during the dyeing and finishing process, and wastewater must be treated to ensure that both ecosystems and nearby communities are protected. Laundries, especially for denim, also require a great deal of water and pose pollution risks. Gap Inc. is working with fabric mills and laundries to improve practices, and we are pursuing partnerships across our supply chain to reduce water and chemicals use. We aim to save 1 billion liters of water in our manufacturing processes by the end of 2017. 

We encourage and support our suppliers in conducting environmental footprint assessments, including water use, using the Sustainable Apparel Coalition's (SAC) Higg Index. We are also actively monitoring and helping improve wastewater quality at denim laundries through our strengthened Water Quality Program. 

 

Supporting Mills - At A Glance
Reducing impacts at mills

In 2015 and 2016, we began working closely with our suppliers to share important benchmarking data so our suppliers can see how their environmental performance compares to competitors and peers. With a dashboard, we provide details, by country and factory, on water consumption and energy use—so that we can help our suppliers identify opportunities for improvements.

Mill Sustainability Program

Launched in 2013, our Mill Sustainability Program aims to improve the practices of fabric mills, while delivering benefits to the people who live in surrounding communities. Our program establishes clear environmental standards, and we are integrating those standards into our sourcing decisions. We also aim to scale improvements across the industry by working with our peers to identify and share best practices for improving the use of water, chemicals and energy.

 

We started our program by working with strategic mills in China, India, Pakistan and Taiwan to conduct environmental assessments, covering issues such as their energy use, water consumption, wastewater treatment and disposal and handling of waste and hazardous substances. Between 2015 and 2016, we expanded our program to reach more mills, and we updated our mill policy to strengthen expectations. We have invited 112 of our strategic mills—representing more than 70% of our fabric spend—to participate in the Higg index.

Going forward, we will continue to work with our supply chain business partners to engage with more tier 2 suppliers. We plan to establish an onboarding process for new mill suppliers, with clear communication of our performance expectations. Additionally, we communicated Minimum Expectations of Social and Labor and Environmental Issues to our entire mill base in March 2017. By further integrating this program and performance metrics across our business—and sharing innovative techniques and best practices with our vendor partners and mills—we will broaden our impact. 

We aim to save 1 billion liters of water in our manufacturing processes by the end of 2017. 

In addition to our Mill Sustainability Program, we are working to improve water impacts by partnering with several industry collaborations.

Mill and Laundry Partnerships

In addition to our Mill Sustainability Program, we are working to improve water impacts by partnering with several industry collaborations.

The Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC’s) Clean by Design program works with global apparel companies to help textile mills reduce their use of water, energy and chemicals. Since 2009, we have worked with Clean by Design to help mills conserve resources, save money and improve their performance. During the reporting period, we focused on helping three mills in Suzhou, China, improve their overall environmental performance by reducing their use of water, energy and chemicals. This project, which ended in 2017, resulted in a savings of 620 million liters of water per year. 

In Vietnam, we work with Race to the Top, an initiative that includes global apparel and footwear brands, government, local industry and civil society. Race to the Top aims to scale up sustainable practices across the country’s garment-manufacturing sector by focusing on four pillars: proving the benefits of a sustainable apparel sector, demonstrating the business case for manufacturers and mills to invest in sustainability, creating a supportive regulatory environment, and creating cost efficiencies and opportunities for innovation in sustainability across Vietnam.

 

In Bangladesh, we are part of the Partnership for Cleaner Textile (PaCT), a program focused on improving the environmental performance of the country’s textile wet-processing sector. In Bangladesh, wet-processing facilities can use three times more water than the global average. This not only wastes water, it consumes more energy and costs more. Through PaCT, we are working with three denim laundries, where we have the potential to save nearly 85 million liters of water. With four other laundries nominated by other brands, there’s potential to save up to 114 million liters.  

In 2015, we built a training program focused on resource efficiency with three mills in water-stressed regions in northern India. Building on this pilot, our India Water Partnership with 10 mills provides technical expertise on water and energy efficiency, as well as chemicals management.