Latest CDP report reveals vast majority of top fashion firms are failing to adequately respond to investor concerns over water-related risks across their value chain
The fashion industry has been accused of being "blind" to the risks of water pollution by a new report from investor-backed environmental disclosure platform CDP.
The research, which has been released today in the run up to this year's London Fashion Week, reveals that only 10 per cent of listed fashion firms have demonstrated awareness of their impact on water pollution levels.
CDP said the fashion and textile industry is responsible for substantial levels of water pollution at each stage of the supply chain, from agricultural runoff in cotton fields to the toxic chemicals used during the dying process and the microfibres that can be released when clothes are washed.
Yet, of 136 businesses whose investors requested impact assessments on water pollution, only 62 - or 46 per cent - provided data in 2019. Of these, only seven - including Gap Inc, H&M, and luxury goods brand Kering - demonstrated awareness of water pollution across their entire value chain.
For example, H&M was the only brand which mentioned microplastics and microfibres in their response to investors, despite the fashion industry contributing 35 per cent of microplastics globally, according to a recent study in the journal Nature.
The CDP's report, titled Interwoven Risks, Untapped Opportunities, also highlights the business case for improving water management with fashion and textile manufacturers reporting $180m of savings through improvements in brand image and investments in sustainable material.
Cate Lamb, director of water security at CDP, said pressure was mounting for fast fashion to "clean up its act" when it comes to water pollution. "Investors, regulators, customers, and consumers alike are all calling for change," she said. "The industry was hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis this year, and the temptation will be there to prioritise short term gains. But the road to a resilient recovery lies in embracing sustainability and circular economy practices."
Responding to the report, the Kering Group said water pollution was one of six impact areas covered by its Environmental Profit & Loss accounts. Marie-Claire Daveu, chief sustainability officer and head of international institutional affairs at Kering Group, added: "Because of the large amounts of water used by tanneries, special wastewater treatment measures are required: we have been working with our suppliers to improve processes, and implement programs to protect the environment all along our supply chain."
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