Mills + Laundries

Mills + 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 well-being. Wastewater must be treated before being returned to the surrounding environment 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. After exceeding our 2017 goal to reduce water in manufacturing by 1 billion liters, we set an ambitious new goal to conserve 10 billion liters of water by the end of 2020 through sustainable manufacturing practices. These potential water savings are the equivalent volume of the daily drinking water needs for 5 billion people.

Reducing impacts at mills

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

Our primary strategy to achieve our goal is to enhance our engagement with the mills and laundries in our supply chain and use water-saving methods in the production of our clothing. We also work with a variety of industry partnerships to improve water impacts.

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 Water Quality Program (WQP), which has been a requirement for over 15 years. In accordance with WQP, all supplier denim laundries must meet or exceed legal effluent discharge requirements.

Since 2015, we’ve been working closely with our suppliers to share important benchmarking data showing 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.

Supporting Mills - At A Glance

Mill Sustainability Program

In 2018, we completed the transition of our Mill Sustainability Program, which we launched in 2013, from a pilot into a strategic initiative, with the purpose of driving transparency and innovation while reducing compliance risks and contributing to our corporate sustainability goals.By leveraging partnerships, we can analyze and improve the environmental performance of our supply chain. Our suppliers’ involvement is key to our ability to calculate our energy, greenhouse gas and water baselines, which support our setting of a Science Based Target for our Scope 3 GHG emissions and mitigate water risks. The program is also helping drive improvements in social performance at mills.

We leverage three key industry-wide efforts to support our Mill Sustainability Program include:

Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC): As a founding member of the 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) 3.0 to collect data from mills’ self-assessments. Increasingly, these self-assessments are verified by a third party. In 2018, the Higg FEM 3.0 completion rate of our supplying mills was more than 90 percent. We now ask our strategic mills (which represent more than 75 percent of our total business) to complete the Higg FEM 3.0 annually.

Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC): We joined ZDHC’s Roadmap to Zero commitment in 2014 to work toward the elimination of hazardous chemicals in our supply chain. We integrated ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme tools and resources, such as the Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL) and Wastewater Guidelines, into our Mill Sustainability Program. In 2018, we began requiring our strategic mills to test their wastewater twice a year and publish the results through the ZDHC Gateway.

Social & Labor Convergence Program (SLCP): As a signatory to this collaboration among apparel and footwear brands, retailers, industry groups and civil society organizations, we are supporting a new shared data-collection tool that can assess the social and labor performance of manufacturing facilities across the apparel and footwear supply chain.

By 2020, we will require 90 percent of Gap Inc.-approved strategic mill facilities to participate in and report using the Higg Index FEM 3.0, ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme, and SLCP social and labor assessment. As part of our work toward this goal, we joined the Open Apparel Registry (OAR), a pilot initiative that assigns a unique identification number to each facility. This registry will allow us to map our suppliers’ facilities and contribute toward transparency across the apparel supply chain. In the future, we hope to use the unique IDs generated by the OAR to map our supplier facilities’ Higg Index, ZDHC, and SLCP modules to ease the burden of supply chain mapping across multiple sustainability initiatives.

By deepening our engagement with suppliers through these programs, we aim to spur innovation so that our suppliers contribute additional ideas and pilot new technologies to reduce social and environmental impacts.

We have a goal to save 10 billion liters of water in our manufacturing processes by the end of 2020. 

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

Mill and Laundry Partnerships

Through our resource efficiency programs, we collaborate with strategic mills and laundries to significantly reduce their water impacts. Recently, the facilities we worked with have seen average water use reductions of 20 percent through their implemented efficiency programs. As many water issues are based on local context and needs, we map water risks to help prioritize areas of focus and drive countrywide or basin-specific approaches.

Our resource efficiency efforts comprise the following programs:

Clean By Design: We have been collaborating with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on its Clean By Design program since 2014, and in 2018, we helped to create the Apparel Impact Institute (AII), which will serve as the program’s new home. This program helps mills in China improve their operational efficiency to reduce water, energy, and chemicals use. To date, we have engaged 20 mills in the Clean By Design program that, together, saved more than 650 million liters of water. In 2018, we worked with 14 mills that represent an additional potential water savings of 1.2 billion liters.

China Mill Efficiency Program: We developed our own Mill Efficiency Program in China in 2017, in which we partnered with a Chinese environmental engineering firm in a year- long assessment of energy and water- savings opportunities at six mill facilities. Together, these facilities achieved more than 1.4 billion liters of water savings and more than 37,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. We are expanding the program with additional facilities in 2019.

India Water Partnership: In India, we embarked on a partnership in 2017 and 2018 with cKinetics, 11 mills and three denim laundries that is saving an estimated 1.2 billion liters of water annually, as well as more than 21,000 tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent per year. The program worked on the ground with our facilities to identify cost-effective as well as ambitious opportunities to improve efficiency. Over the course of a year and a half, the facilities implemented 103 projects, ranging from recovery and reuse of process water, replacement of boilers and dyeing machines to more efficient models, and overall process optimization. The work resulted in the publication of a best practices handbook that our teams can use with other wet processing units to encourage improvements.

Partnership for Cleaner Textile (PaCT): In Bangladesh and Pakistan, we work with PaCT to improve the environmental performance of the textile wet-processing sector. In 2018, we nominated six additional denim laundries in Bangladesh to complete in-depth assessments of their operations that highlighted improvement opportunities (we worked with three denim laundries in 2016 and 2017 through PaCT as well). In Pakistan, we nominated and completed in depth assessments for five mills and two denim laundries, and are in the process of completing assessments for four additional cut-and-sew units.

Race to the Top: In Vietnam, our largest sourcing country, we partner with IDH-led Race to the Top to work with other global apparel and footwear brands, government, local industry and civil society on programs that support sustainability, cost savings and opportunities for innovation in our sector. In 2018, we signed on an additional two mills and three laundries, completing an on-site assessment for each that demonstrate improvement opportunities. These facilities are currently implementing water and energy improvement projects currently and will validate their savings in 2019.

Taiwan Mill Efficiency Program: In Taiwan, we started a new mill efficiency program in 2018 as an extension of our engagement with Clean by Design in China. We completed on-site assessments of four mills that joined the program, and we plan to calculate water-improvement results in 2019, which we estimate may reach over 300 million liters. We also estimate potential GHG reductions of over 7,000 tons.