2015 GLASA Awards: Key Takeaways

By Dawn McGregor, Feng Hu 15 September, 2015

CWR's McGregor & Hu encouraged by discussions on water at the GLASA Awards 2015 in Stockholm

Pratibha Syntex (a vertically integrated Indian textile manufacturer) wins GLASA 2015; congrats to all finalists
Fashion industry at various stages on water; need more communication: awareness & solutions across supply chain
Lots of on ground action & solutions but need to scale-up; need more collective action to reduce water risk to industry

On 27th August 2015 in Stockholm Pratibha Syntex (a vertically integrated Indian textile manufacturer from cotton farming to spinning, knitting, dyeing and garment manufacturing) won the Global Leadership Award in Sustainable Apparel (GLASA) 2015 – heartfelt congratulations to them! China Water Risk was honoured to be one of the five finalists.

Heartfelt congratulations to Pratibha Syntex – GLASA 2015 winner

GLASA Award 2015
The theme for this year’s award was water and it was apparent during the GLASA events that water is also a ‘theme’ for the fashion industry, with the majority of brands at the events aware of the water risks they are facing.  Some though are further ahead than others in regards to both awareness and also translating this awareness into action. Those operating in or with China need to make sure they are among those further ahead as China’s water risks and the recent Water Ten Plan mean a tighter timeframe for action.
Here are our key takeaways:

1. Communication is still a priority

Given the various stages the fashion industry is in on water there still needs to be more communication. This includes raising awareness but also needs to go beyond onto solutions. It needs to include all stages of the supply chain so that action can match the risk (more here) and needs to include all stakeholders. Some from the finance sector at the events highlighted the need for clear & simple communication of water, and that it is in the right context. This point also came up at World Water Week 2015, our key takeaways of that here.

The various stages the fashion industry is in on water means more communication is needed
Communication needs to be simple & clear

Brands need to have a clear water commitment that is communicated well so they can lead consumers & suppliers. Some Chinese consumers’ attitudes are changing, becoming more focused on environmental issues so brands must adapt (more here).
There are lots of on ground actions that they can join or implement similar initiatives to help minimise their exposure to water risks.

2. Lots of on ground action ranging from cotton production to dyeing to capacity building

It was apparent during the GLASA events that there are many on ground solutions that can help companies with their water strategy, ranging from water-less dyeing by Dyecoo (award finalist) to capacity building & technical support by Sustainable Water Resources (SWAR) (award finalist) and to holistic cotton production & garment manufacturing by Pratibha Syntex (award winner).

Many on ground solutions already exist
Cost & scaling-up remain issues

Cost is always an issue. Providing low cost solutions will be vital, especially since many textile manufacturers are SMEs. These companies face more financial barriers to adopt sustainable practices and to scale up.
One of Pratibha Syntex’s strong points is to provide cost-effective solutions and engage thousands of local farmers, as explained in the award jury’s motivation:

…Pratibha leads the way in the development of organic farming techniques, supports capacity building and economic development for thousands of farmers, applies the best available water efficient dyeing techniques to fabric manufacturing, and with their eye on the future, pioneers the development of highly water-efficient fabrics and business models that are not cotton dependent…And the future is even brighter – by further applying their exceptional solutions they will be able to reduce their dependence on water by an additional 1 billion liters, thereby reducing risk for at least 30,000 farmers and their families.

However, barriers to solutions remain. One such is that without demand from the market it’s almost impossible to scale-up hindering further development and adoption of the solution.

3. Need more collective action

What all the award finalists showed is that action needs to go beyond one enterprise, its needs to be collective. Discussions on what makes a good ‘water steward’ all had to some degree a notion of wider involvement, collective action. Be this along a supply chain, at a basin level & more. With competing water demands companies may not be able to just buy the water they need, making collective action a must as Deloitte’s Will Sarni shares.

Need more collective action.
Especially given that 32% – 75% of hides, wool, cotton, chemical fibre & silk are either made in or passed through China as imports

Another reason for more collective action is that whilst some brands have moved away from “Made in China” so much of fashion’s raw materials still come from China, which has limited water resources. As we show in “Still Exposed! Fashion Materials in China”, 32% to 75% of hides, wool, cotton, chemical fibre & silk are either made in or passed through China as imports. Given these massive percentages most fashion brands will at least directly or indirectly source some of their raw materials from China, meaning they are exposed to the country’s water risks. With such a dependency on China and its water it makes sense for not just brands but also manufacturers and producers to work collectively to ensure future operations and reduce their exposure. China Water Risk’s Tan elaborated on this in her speech at the award ceremony.
Cotton, a key raw material, was a popular discussion topic. During the same week, China Water Risk also participated in a workshop, “Systemic shift in the cotton industry: Cotton 2040, water and change” organized by Forum for the Future and Textile Exchange. The workshop introduced the new initiative that was launched in February 2015 by Forum for the Future and included discussion on preliminary scoping for their report. The initiative aims to “catalyse current initiatives in the global cotton industry by integrating and focusing the activities of different players to create a systemic shift across the sector”. 

It was encouraging to hear about all the work being done on water and water-related risks in the fashion industry
Congrats again to all finalists and keep up the good work!

It was encouraging to hear about all the work being done on water and water-related risks in the fashion industry at the GLASA events and also the Cotton 2040 workshop.
Thank you to GLASA for the nomination and congratulations again to all the finalists and of course to the winner, Pratibha Syntex! Keep up the good work and lets show that business-as-usual is no longer an option and that sustainable practices can make good financial sense!

Further Reading

  • 2015 World Water Week: Key Takeaways – What’s water’s role in sustainable development? How can we ensure water for all? China Water Risk’s McGregor on this, how Asia is fairing, the Sustainable Development Goals & more from World Water Week 2015
  • Still Exposed! Fashion Materials in China – With 32% to 75% of global hides, wool, cotton, chemical fibre and silk either produced in or passing through China via imports, exposure is sky high. Should brands move out of China or should they stay and help factories meet the Water Ten Plan? China Water Risk’s Tan expands on the future of the industry
  • Trade-offs Could Help China Manage Water – Tough trade-offs may be on the horizon for China as it balances water, food & energy security. HSBC’s Wai-Shin Chan warns how cotton & coal maybe headed for a clash in the long term as they compete for limited water resources provincially & nationally
  • China Water-nomics – Will China’s economic development be hampered by limited water resources?  The very existence of the Three Red Lines signals that China can’t keep developing the way it has. Read on for why GDP will be capped at 5.7% given China’s water-nomics
  • Incorporating Environment Into Business -Companies are incorporating environmental performance into business, so suppliers need to follow suit or risk losing customers. The Business Environmental Performance Initiative (BEPI) can help both parties as BEPI’s Micilotta explains

Textiles & China

  • Dirty Thirsty Wars – Fashion Blindsided – CLSA report titled “Dirty Thirsty Fashion: Blindsided by China’s water wars”, examines how China’s water risks could blindside the US$1.7 trillion global fashion industry. Is this the end of fast fashion? Debra Tan expands 
  • Where Are The Top Fashion Brands? – Given tighter regulations for textiles in China, we review the environmental initiatives of 10 top fashion brands from fast fashion to luxury. Are they looking beyond CSR to make their business model sustainable?
  • Water Ten & Fashion: 8 Reasons to Leap or Fall – China Water Risks’ Hu shares 8 reasons why China’s Water Ten is actually an ultimatum for textiles to leap or fall. They need to decide which soon, as there is only two to three years before the paradigm shift
  • China’s Economy: Linear to Circular – China is the 3rd country globally to enact polices to move towards a circular economy. See how & why China needs to make this transition; which industries are affected, what is the role of industrial parks?
Dawn McGregor
Author: Dawn McGregor
Dawn leads CWR’s work to help corporates navigate increasingly disruptive & material risks from water & climate threats, as well as transitional risks in the supply chain arising from new regulations in China. Here, Dawn engages extensively with the global fashion industry delivering on-ground workshops in China to keynotes and strategic input at European HQs. She has written at length on the end of dirty and thirsty fast fashion and her report to overcome gaps between brands and manufacturers for a clean and circular future inspired the industry to create a new wastewater tool. Dawn also works closely with the property and tourism sectors where she not only conducts strategic assessments of their exposure but builds collective action toward resilience via closed door working groups and invite-only events. Having helped build CWR, Dawn is a frequent keynote, panellist & moderator at events, including being twice selected as the lead-rapporteur at World Water Week. Her articles are cited in various industry publications including the UN’s ‘World Without Water’. Dawn previously worked in a global investment bank assessing geo-political risk, crisis management and business resiliency. She was born and bred in Hong Kong and has lived in France, England, Singapore and Beijing.
Read more from Dawn McGregor →
Feng Hu
Author: Feng Hu
Having previously led CWR’s work on water-nomics, Feng now sits on our advisory panel to help us push the conversation on integrating water considerations in planning sustainable transition and mobilising finance toward climate and water resilience. Feng currently works on ESG advisory at a regional financial institution. Prior to that, Feng worked as Sustainable Finance Research Manager APAC at V.E, part of Moody’s ESG Solutions. During his time at CWR, he initiated and led projects for CWR including the joint policy briefs with China’s Foreign Economic Cooperation Office of the Ministry of Environmental Protection on the water-nomics of the Yangtze River Economic Belt. Feng expanded the water-nomics conversation beyond China by co-authoring CWR’s seminal report “No Water No Growth – Does Asia Have Enough Water To Develop?”. He has given talks on water-nomics and other water issues at international conferences, academic symposiums, corporate trainings and investor forums. Previously, Feng also sat on the Technical Working Group of the Initiative for Climate Action Transparency (ICAT) and worked as a senior carbon auditor on various types of climate change mitigation projects across Asia and Africa. Feng holds two MSc degrees – one in Finance (Economic Policy) from SOAS University of London and the other in Sustainable Resource Management from Technical University of Munich – and a BSc degree in Environmental Science from Zhejiang University.
Read more from Feng Hu →