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Swedish Water Project Wins Sustainability Award

A partnership between Swedish apparel brands and their Indian suppliers has won the 2015 Habit Fashion Award for Sustainability for its work towards cleaner textile production globally—the first time the 9-year-old Nordic competition has bestowed such a prize.

Dubbed Sustainable Water Resources (SWAR), the program is a joint initiative between Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), as well as fashion brands Indiska, KappAhl and Lindex and their Indian suppliers and sub-suppliers.

Since launching in 2013, more than 40 textiles mills managed to save 284 million liters of water and 402 tons of chemicals annually. Today, the water project has expanded its impact to include 120 factories across India, China, Bangladesh, Turkey and Ethiopia that supply 20 major Swedish brands.

“SWAR piloted in 2013 in densely-populated northwestern India where the groundwater situation is dire. Basin levels continue to drop at an alarming rate and pollution continues to stagnate human development in the region,” Torgny Holmgren, executive director of SIWI, said in a statement. “We are proud that SWAR was recognized by Habit for directly increasing the efficiency of water, energy and chemical use in textile production in a systematic, cost-efficient and sustainable way.’’

As part of the program’s expansion earlier this year, Sida said it would match participants’ investments in better water management, while STWI said it would work with national public authorities to govern water use.

“Water and energy are the most important resources for our business,” said Anuj Batra of Bee K Bee Prints, one of the participating factories. “Therefore our biggest driver to join SWAR was water and energy conservation. Apart from this, the cultural change in the factory resulting from SWAR also helped us to continue our water and energy conservation activities.”

According to a joint statement released by Indiska, Lindex and KappAhl, “SWAR has enabled us to over-perform on almost all social, environmental and business metrics that we identified at the project start. In addition, it provided clear evidence and data through exact measurements of water consumption meters, project implementation sheets for each implemented projects and testimonials provided by the factories. This kind of accurate intelligence is often very hard to secure when working across industry borders.”