H&M Partners With WWF To Reduce Water Impact and Help Endangered Species
Blog Entry by Gina-Marie Cheeseman in Environment and Climate Change
Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 9:00pm
The Swedish clothing retailer H&M began a partnership last year with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to improve the company’s water stewardship. The partnership, part of WWF’s Water Stewardship initiative, will last three years. The company, which has 3,100 stores and 104,000 employees worldwide, had already worked with WWF for several years before launching the official partnership. Part of the partnership will include internal and external actions. Internal actions include raising water awareness among H&M’s staff, suppliers and consumers, and measuring impacts so that H&M better understands water risk and performance across its supply chain and operations. External actions include setting targets for reducing water impact and effective stakeholder engagement.
Water is an important part of the garment industry, which needs water to grow cotton and manufacture fabrics. About 2.7 billion people, around 40 percent of the world’s population, live in river basins where water scarcity occurs during at least one month a year, according to WWF’s 2012 Living Planet Report. The report predicts that by 2050 over 40 percent of the world’s population will live under severe water stress. Many places around the world are already experiencing severe drought, including California, which is in the midst of the third consecutive year of drought. As a result, Governor Jerry Brown has issued a State of Emergency proclamation. The drought is impacting the statewide snowpack water content, necessary for the state’s vast agricultural regions, which is only about 29 percent of the normal average for this time of year. This year is projected to be the driest on record for California.
Southeastern Brazil, the area where most of the country’s food is produced, is another place experiencing drought. Scientists are predicting that the worst of the drought has not occurred yet. Already over 140 cities in Brazil have had to ration water. On the other side of the globe from Brazil, Australia is another area hard hit by drought. Over 70 percent of Queensland and 62 percent of New South Wales have not had much rain for the last two years. Last year, Australia experienced the warmest winter on record and this year it is experiencing a summer heatwave, which has caused wildfires.
H&M supporting WWF conservation work with dolphins part
As part of its partnership, H&M is supporting WWF conservation projects in two regions, the Yangtze River basin in China and the Ganges/Brahmaputra basin in Bangladesh. The Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia. WWF is working on saving the Yangtze finless porpoise, which is facing severe stress caused by overfishing, pollution and ship movement. In 2006, the Baiji dolphin was declared functionally extinct, the first time in history that an entire dolphin species was declared extinct. WWF is working with H&M and other supporters to save the Yangtze finless porpoise from meeting the same fate as the Baiji dolphin. That work includes engaging stakeholders in China, including government institutions, NGOs, industry associations and local communities.
The Brahmaputra river flows through Bangladesh where it meets the Ganges and forms a delta. An endangered dolphin, called the Ganges River dolphin, calls the Brahmaputra home. The area is one of the most densely populated ones in the world and dams and irrigation projects are the main threats to the dolphins. WWF is working with local communities to use natural fertilizers, not throw domestic sewage in the river and ban commercial fishing and sand-mining activities.