Sustainable access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is central to meeting global development goals on poverty, health, education and economic growth. With one-in-five people employed in corporate supply chains, and up to 90% of these working in developing country small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and farms, the potential benefits of a stronger focus and action on WASH in supply chains by global corporations are significant. By profiling company interventions on WASH in supply chains, this series of case studies aims to strengthen the evidence base and share learning to inspire and support other companies to take action.
Because many sourcing countries face challenges in accessing water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), Gap Inc. invests in programs that not only ensures that the people who make their clothes work in safe, fair conditions, but that they are also treated with dignity and respect. As outlined by Gap Inc.’s Code of Vendor Conduct, this includes ensuring they have access to safe drinking water and sanitary, functional toilets, among other fundamental safeguards. Outside of the workplace, women often bear responsibility for collecting water for the household and completing chores such as washing, cooking and cleaning. The company’s Women + Water program helps communities gain access to WASH, while also addressing the water impacts created from production.
Water quality and efficiency in denim laundries and fabric mills is also a key priority. Through their own Water Quality Programme – as well as partnership with non-profit organisations, such as The Natural Resource Defence Council’s Clean By Design programme in China; IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative’s Race to the Top programme in Vietnam; and the International Finance Corporation and Solidaridad programme PaCT in Bangladesh – Gap Inc. are working with other apparel brands to improve the sustainability of production operations.