WWF and H&M Group ready to transform efforts to tackle water risks facing the fashion industry.

24 Nov 2020

By Julia Bakutis, H&M Regional Sustainability Manager, Europe Region and Asli Pasinli, CEO WWF-Turkey

No one doubts the threat posed to businesses across the globe by worsening water risks. The World Economic Forum just ranked water crises in its top 5 global risks by impact for the ninth — yes 9th! — year in a row. Still, few companies and industries are responding to these risks, even though it is clear that ‘business as usual’ is unsustainable — especially for extremely water-dependent industries, such as fashion.

Take the Büyük Menderes river basin in Turkey — where the textile sector is a leading industry. Indeed, the sector accounts for 30% of the jobs in Denizli province, and 50% of its exports. But the river is under increasing pressure. While the main problem is pollution from industry and agriculture, it is also predicted that climate change and development in the basin will reduce the amount of available seasonal water in the near future.

This is worrying for all the businesses, communities and nature that depend on the river. This is especially true for textile manufacturers whose businesses rely on large amounts of water for the dyeing and finishing processes. Needless to say, the textile industry also contributes to water risk due to the high volume of chemicals used in these processes. With less clean water available in the basin, increasing demand for water is likely to cause competition between textile companies and other industries, agriculture and public water supplies.

It is crystal clear — unlike the polluted water in the river — that urgent, innovative and ambitious measures must be taken to mitigate water risks to ensure environmental and socioeconomic sustainability.

Which is where the H&M Group and WWF come in — partnering to transform the industry in Buyuk Menderes by promoting a transition to cleaner production processes.

This is a win-win proposition for business: it cuts production costs by using less water and energy, and fewer chemicals as well as reducing the amount of solid waste and minimises the impact of the industry on freshwater resources and the health of the river basin. In turn, this is a win for the other businesses, communities and nature that depend on the river.

United in a common vision for water stewardship, H&M Group and WWF began a long-term partnership in 2011. Partnering with H&M group in Turkey, WWF-Turkey is now supporting textile companies in Buyuk Menderes basin and beyond to transition to cleaner production processes. Building from the results of this partnership, WWF-Turkey will develop technical and financial cooperation mechanisms — with support from WWF’s bankable water solutions initiative — so that cleaner production investments can be realized.

Together H&M and WWF-Turkey are engaging key stakeholders from the private sector, the government and civil society to work towards our shared vision of water stewardship in the Buyuk Menderes basin. WWF-Turkey is also preparing to channel this transformational momentum of stakeholder collaboration to other key industries — such as olive and marble production in the region.

It is important for textile companies in Turkey to reduce their dependency and impact on natural resources to remain competitive and conserve the limited resources that are available. In addition, resource efficiency in the supply chain — such as water and energy savings, the use of different chemicals — has become a priority for many international customers and buyers. It makes financial sense since in many cases, investment costs in cleaner production are recuperated in under a year.

Through the recently launched Cleaner Production Guide in the Textile Sector, the H&M Group and WWF hope to contribute to the initiation of better management practices and sustainability in the textile sector in Buyuk Menderes and across Turkey. In addition to ensuring resource efficiency in textile production, we hope that the guide will light the way for textile producers to protect their business development and act against sectoral water risks.

So what can companies do in Turkey to support water stewardship and reduce their water risk?

1. Seek out our Cleaner Production guide, read it and benefit from it. And share it with other firms.

2. Conduct feasibility studies and invest where it will have the greatest impact on savings in the production process and the environment.

3. Hire technical experts and specialists and bring them into management teams to strengthen sustainability and ensure companies are as efficient as possible.

4. Use the upgraded WWF Water Risk Filter to assess and respond to water risk.

5. Join WWF and H&M Group in our advocacy around this critical topic.


Story as published by WWF