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Home / case studies / Case study: How Gildan optimises water use

Case study: How Gildan optimises water use

As one of the world’s largest manufacturers of activewear, underwear and socks, directly controlling almost every step in the process of manufacturing its products, Gildan acknowledges that its operations have an impact on the environment and works relentlessly to develop more efficient technologies and processes to safeguard water resources and optimise water use.

This case study is based on the 2017 Sustainability Report by Gildan published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate what CSR/ ESG/ sustainability reporting done responsibly means. Essentially, it means: a) identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment, economy and society, and b) measuring, managing and changing.

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Since 2015, Gildan managed to reduce its water intensity by 10%  Tweet This! through new equipment and technology, various water management systems and, also, by optimising overall water usage intensity. In order to optimise water use Gildan took action to:
  • improve water consumption
  • reduce water intensity
  • improve wastewater management

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2017 Sustainability Report Gildan identified a range of material issues, such as product quality and safety, business ethics and compliance, human and labour rights, energy and emissions management. Among these, optimising water use stands out as a key material issue for Gildan.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards              

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The reporting organization shall identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations and interests.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups Gildan engages with:

Stakeholder Group                Method of engagement
Shareholders

 

·      Annual General Meeting

·      Earnings Release Conference Calls

·      Conferences and non-deal road- shows

Investors (Institutional)

 

·      Investor Relations Day

·      Materiality Assessment

·      Earnings Release Conference Calls

·      Investor perception study

·      Comprehensive facility tour

·      On-request meetings with Board members

Board of Directors ·      Board meetings
Employees

 

 

 

 

·      Global employee engagement survey

·      Pulse surveys

·      Materiality Assessment

·      Worker-Management Committee Meetings

·      Employee Meetings – Headquarters

·      Gildan TV Internal Communications

·      Round tables

Customers

 

·      Materiality Assessment

·      Benchmarking

·      Audits

NGOs

 

 

 

·      Memberships

·      Audit requests

·      Participation in Roundtables

·      Committee Meetings

·      Conferences

·      Webinars

·      Workshops

·      Materiality Assessment

Local Communities ·      Memberships

·      Audit requests

·      Participation in Roundtables

·      Committee Meetings

·      Conferences

·      Webinars

·      Workshops

·      Materiality Assessment

·      Town Hall Meetings

Students / Academia / Schools

 

·      Mentoring

·      Internship Programme

·      Participation in research projects

Government ·      Meetings

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To identify and prioritise material topics Gildan carried out interviews with internal stakeholders (senior leaders from different business functions) and engaged with over 25 external stakeholders (including civil society organisations, printwear and retail customers, investors and trade associations) through focus groups.

What actions were taken by Gildan to optimise water use?

In its 2017 Sustainability Report Gildan reports that it took the following actions for optimising water use:

  • Improving water consumption
  • Gildan’s average global water consumption for the dyeing of its textiles was calculated in 2017 to be 56-57 litres of water per kilogram of product, while the indicated industry average water usage needed to create a white cotton t-shirt is, approximately, 65-70 litres per kg of product in the apparel industry. Thus, Gildan’s performance regarding water consumption is strong, relative to the textile industry average. In addition, Gildan sources the vast majority of its water needs from wells (97%), and only a small percentage is supplied by the municipalities (3%). Gildan also makes sure that its water usage does not significantly affect any water source, and does not use water from any Ramsar-listed wetlands or from water bodies recognised as being particularly sensitive.
  • Reducing water intensity
  • In 2010, Gildan first established five-year environmental goals based on its environmental footprint, which included a 20% water reduction in water intensity per kg of product. During the 2010-2015 period, Gildan achieved a reduction in its water intensity by 17% per kg of production. This reduction translated into savings of around 3.85 million cubic meters of water, or the equivalent of more than 1,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
  • Improving wastewater management
  • Effective management of its wastewater effluent is a top priority for Gildan and an area where it has adopted innovative solutions for many years. For example, Gildan’s Biotop system, located in its Honduran and Dominican Republic manufacturing hubs, is a highly efficient biological wastewater treatment system that has been used since these facilities’ inception, has yielded excellent results, and maintained an extremely rich ecosystem adjacent to Gildan’s production facilities. Unlike traditional chemical-based treatment systems, the system’s purpose is to treat wastewater through a series of interconnected lagoons, which naturally eliminate dyes and chemicals from the effluent and stabilise the wastewaters’ pH. Additionally, Gildan implements a series of biological reactors for the treatment of effluents, and to increase its wastewater treatment capacity at textile hubs. These systems leverage biological oxidation as an effective wastewater treatment process, operate at a low operational cost and work together with the Biotop system, guaranteeing a continuous and safe wastewater treatment system. Moreover, Gildan does not discharge water into any protected rivers and/or wetlands and strict controls are enforced on all effluents discharged from Gildan’s wastewater treatment plants. All treatment facilities are required to meet local discharge regulations and exhaustive biological surveys are carried out at least every two years, to review the impact that the facilities may have on the environment.

Which GRI Standards and corresponding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been addressed?

The GRI Standards addressed in this case are:

1) Disclosure 303-1 Water withdrawal by source

2) Disclosure 303-2 Water sources significantly affected by withdrawal of water

3) Disclosure 303-3 Water recycled and reused

4) Disclosure 306-1 Water discharge by quality and destination

 

Disclosure 303-1 Water withdrawal by source corresponds to:

Disclosure 303-2 Water sources significantly affected by withdrawal of water corresponds to:

Disclosure 303-3 Water recycled and reused corresponds to:

Disclosure 306-1 Water discharge by quality and destination corresponds to:

 

80% of the world’s 250 largest companies report in accordance with the GRI Standards

SustainCase was primarily created to demonstrate, through case studies, the importance of dealing with a company’s most important impacts in a structured way, with use of the GRI Standards. To show how today’s best-run companies are achieving economic, social and environmental success – and how you can too.

Research by well-recognised institutions is clearly proving that responsible companies can look to the future with optimism.



FBRH GRI Standards Certified and IEMA approved Sustainability Course | Venue: London LSE

By registering for the next 2-day FBRH GRI-Standards Certified and IEMA approved Course you will be taking the first step in gaining the many benefits of sustainability reporting.

 

References:

1) This case study is based on published information by Gildan, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:

http://database.globalreporting.org/

2) https://www.globalreporting.org/standards/gri-standards-download-center/

Note to Gildan: With each case study we send out an email requesting a comment on this case study. If you have not received such an email please contact us.

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