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Swedish Water Project Achieves Almost Double-Digit Reductions in Supplier Factories

It’s been a busy five years for the Sweden Textile Water Initiative (STWI).

Since starting its work toward cleaner textile production globally in 2010, the project has grown into a public-private partnership between more than 30 Swedish textile and leather brands and the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), with funding and support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

More than 300 interventions were implemented between March 2015 and January 2016 and, according to its 2015 results, the group’s efforts reduced water consumption in supplier factories in Turkey, India, Bangladesh and China by 8.25% for a total of 2.49 million cubic meters—that’s equivalent to the daily needs of almost 50 million people, based on the United Nations “human right to water” minimum of 50 liters per day per capita.

Notably, that figure does not include savings in Ethiopia, where the STWI expanded in October 2015. The group said those results will be reported at a later date.

In addition to water conservation, energy consumption was reduced by a total of 11 percent, while chemical savings amounted to 6 percent.

Participating Turkish factories showed the greatest improvement overall, reporting a 12 percent reduction in water consumption, fuel savings of 18 percent and an 18 percent cut in chemical usage.

STWI also trained more than 12,000 people at 72 factories in four counties at all managerial levels. In addition, these factories have invested 43.3 million Swedish krona (about $5.3 million) in improvements, as suggested by the group, which resulted in operational cost reductions of 39 million Swedish krona ($4.78 million) due to more efficient use of water, energy and chemicals. As STWI pointed out, that’s an average return on investment of 89 percent annually.

Late last year, the project won the 2015 Habit Fashion Award for Sustainability and it was also selected as a finalist for the 2015 Global Leadership Award in Sustainable Apparel Award (GLASA).

“Through building capacities on water, energy and chemical use in the textile industry, our partnership has successfully built a platform that is catalyzing global change from the factory base,” STWI said. “Success to date has been rapid and substantial, sparking international interest, requests for deeper partnerships and the ambition to continue scaling up.”