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Gap Ups Ante on Sustainable Cotton Sourcing, Aims for 100 Percent

Gap Inc. said Thursday it will derive 100 percent of its cotton from more sustainable sources by 2025.

Cotton’s strong fibers are used in a significant portion of products across Gap Inc. brands and its cultivation spurs economic opportunity by supporting livelihoods in many communities. However, much of the world’s cotton is grown in areas where people have difficulty accessing clean water due to pollution and droughts, the San Francisco-based retailer said.

The situation, Gap said, is exacerbated by climate change, so by sourcing sustainably farmed and sourced cotton, the company is supporting farmers who use water efficiently through better irrigation practices.

“We’re proud to support innovations that protect natural resources and foster cleaner, safer communities for families around the world,” said Keith White, Gap Inc.’s executive vice president of global sustainability. “Sourcing cotton in a way that reduces water use and damage to the climate is about creating a healthy environment for our children and future generations.”

Gap’s commitment to sustainability includes sourcing Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) cotton, and cotton that is organic, recycled and verified American or Australian grown. BCI is a multi-stakeholder initiative that develops and promotes good farm practices, allowing more cotton to be grown while reducing water and chemical use, and also protecting working conditions and biodiversity.

In BCI’s latest global ranking of top companies that source sustainably grown BCI cotton by volume, Gap Inc—which started sourcing Better Cotton in 2016—ranked fourth. The company also has a manufacturing goal to conserve 10 billion liters of water by the end of 2020, which it noted would be the equivalent volume of the daily drinking water needed for 5 billion people.

While cotton is one of the most popular fibers in the world, it is one of the most water-intensive crops grown to the point, Gap noted, that a single pair of jeans uses an average of 1,600 gallons of water throughout its full life cycle, 64 percent of which is used in growing the cotton.

The new cotton sourcing target builds on commitments already established by several Gap Inc. brands. Old Navy has committed to increase its sourcing of sustainable cotton to 100 percent by 2022 and Banana Republic will source all of its cotton from more sustainable sources by 2023.

In line with that, Gap Inc. CEO Art Peck announced last month that Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic will launch denim with 5 percent post-consumer mechanically-recycled cotton content.