China’s textile industry produces about half of the world’s textiles with water and energy intensive dyeing and printing operations using up to 200 tons of water per ton of fabric.
The China Water Program was launched to promote industrial water efficiency and water quality.
China experiences a large wastewater pollution load, as well as water scarcity and environmental degradation due to fast economic growth and the effect of climate change.
According to IFC, these processes are unsustainable if growing water scarcity and quality issues are not addressed.
The water program has developed 50 projects in the last two years that have achieved results such as facilitating over $50 million in capital investment, saving $18 million in operating costs annually due to reduced use of resources and getting suppliers of global brands like IKEA and Primark as well as domestic companies involved.
“Unlike similar textile-focused initiatives, our projects go beyond low hanging fruit,” IFC project leader Rong Chen, said. “These projects are more difficult to develop and finance, but have greater impact.” The team referred several projects to the Bank of Beijing, which is the first Chinese bank to include a water-efficiency component under a risk-sharing facility with IFC.
The IFC said it is also planning to scale up the water program through collaborations with stakeholders beyond the textile supply chain. The organization recently started the Green Textile City Initiative with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which provided capacity building for 100 textile mills in Shaoxing and Guangzhou. Thirty-three of these trained mills have gone on to implement more than 200 water and energy saving projects on their own.
“In the future, we plan to work with more brands that see water as a value driver for their business and want to strategically manage this resource beyond immediate factory-level projects,” said Navneet Chadha, principal operations officer at IFC. “Collective industry action is necessary to make water management interventions really sustainable and lead to market transformation.”
The IFC China Water Program works in partnership with the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency RVO and the Hungarian Export-Import Bank.