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Swedish Water Conservation Project to Expand Beyond India

A Swedish water project that helped more than 40 Indian textile mills in save 284 million liters of water and 402 tons of chemicals annually is expanding to more countries this year.

The Sweden Textile Water Initiative (STWI), a public-private partnership between 28 Swedish textile and leather companies and the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), announced Wednesday plans to expand the program to factories in Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia and Turkey as well several new states in India.

The garment industry is notoriously water-intensive, requiring the resource for crop cultivation, textile dyeing and finishing. The initiative therefore seeks to educate suppliers and sub-contractors on the sustainable use of water, energy and chemicals throughout the whole supply chain. After the success of its pilot program in India, where participating factories cut energy and operational costs in addition to reducing their environmental impact, STWI wants to spark a shift towards cleaner textile production globally.

“It is all about spreading knowledge and changing attitudes,” said Rami Abdelrahman, SIWI program manager. “Within just two years, we have educated more than 14,000 factory managers and employees. This has paved the way for long-term gains for the environment, the companies, the suppliers and the local population.”

As part of the program’s expansion, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) will match the participants’ investments in better water management and STWI will work with national public authorities to govern water use. “Unfortunately, the textile industry often has a negative impact on the environment and we therefore want to take the lead in minimizing water and chemical usage in Asia and Africa,” said Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Sida’s director general. “We will jointly contribute to sustainable development and an improved local environment.”

A number of Swedish apparel retailers, including Filippa K, H&M and Lindex, currently partake in the program. But as Filippa K’s sustainability manager, Elin Larsson, explained, the more companies that engage, the greater the impact. “Ideally we would want all Swedish textile and leather companies to implement our guidelines and help us develop them further,” she said.