H&M group and WWF call for more fashion brands to sign up to water stewardship.

Laila Petrie, WWF Cotton and Textiles Lead, WWF and Cecilia Strömblad Brännsten, Environmental Sustainability Manager, H&M group.

© Justin Jin / WWF-US

H&M group and WWF have worked together on water stewardship since 2011, reducing the water impacts within the H&M group supply chain as well as creating programmes for wider change in key sourcing regions.

Now they are calling on other textiles brands to join global industry efforts on water stewardship, in particular joining efforts to work ‘beyond the factory fence’ — creating multi-stakeholder solutions to water issues and supporting stronger water governance (policy, incentives and enforcement) in high water risk regions.

Multiple other textiles brands have already joined or initiated water stewardship programmes with WWF, alongside homewear brands and leading financial institutions with an interest in textiles value chains. Regions with a WWF textiles water stewardship programme currently include China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Northern and Southern India, Pakistan, Turkey and Ethiopia.

WWF and H&M group are calling for even more textiles brands to join WWF or other technical organisations working on water stewardship in supplier regions.

© Sun Xiaodong/WWF

And to further increase the impact from such approaches, H&M group and other WWF partners will join WWF and co-conveners GIZ, HSBC and the CEO Water Mandate for a session on Wednesday August 29 at World Water Week, exploring the business case for working beyond site level on water and whether the textile industry should establish a global platform to increase collaboration on textiles water stewardship.

Other speakers include the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and CNTAC, the Chinese National Textiles Association. The session will facilitate audience workshopping and voting on preferred approaches to global alignment, and will be streamed live for those not attending World Water Week in person. A report will also be published based on outputs from the session, laying out a roadmap for future alignment.

Simultaneously, WWF is ramping up its own efforts to support the fashion industry. In October, WWF is set to launch the upgraded WWF Water Risk Filter. Version 5.0 will feature a new value and respond section will also offer a specific water risk mitigation actions for textiles companies. The approach was piloted and informed by the WWF and H&M group partnership.

By aligning with industry standards, KPIs and definitions, the Water Risk Filter’s actions are tailored to fit textiles companies, and brands can move from setting targets on water management towards identifying contextually appropriate, shared solutions in any basin where production is located.

The WWF and H&M group call to the textiles industry is in line with work from the UN, WWF, the CEO Water Mandate and others on SDG 6 and the role of the private sector on water. At the start of the UN International Water Decade, businesses will need to play a strong role on the implementation of SDG 6.

The fashion and textile industry has a critical role to play in supporting SDG 6 commitments, not just around reducing its own impacts but also in supporting other actors including governments in achieving water goals.

For brands, this means setting holistic targets on water stewardship, reducing value chain water impacts, supporting multi-stakeholder programmes and strengthened water governance in key regions, and helping restore and protect rivers and freshwater ecosystems.

The textile and apparel industry should be at the forefront on water stewardship due to its high impact on rivers and freshwater ecosystems, and high dependence on clean sustainable water supplies. Efficiency savings from single companies alone will not address water risk at the basin level. The answer is for brands in the fashion and textile industry to work together.

No single brand can address water on its own — collaboration is key for change. Fashion brands may compete in business, but they stand joined in action for a sustainable future on water.

© Justin Jin / WWF-US