Together with Ecoera, H2O-Company and Initiativa Verde, Brazilian denim specialist Vicunha has introduced a pioneering project to measure water consumption – from cotton cultivation to the end consumer. Using the obtained insights and data, Vicunha announced in a press release yesterday that it now wants to define new targets for reducing water consumption and compensation through socio-ecological projects such as soil recovery, water protection, carbon stocks and the formation of habitat corridors for biodiversity throughout the entire jeanswear production chain.
Starting point of the joint project „Vicunha Water Footprint“ was the question “Do you know how many litres of water were used to produce the jeans you are wearing?”. To optimise a responsible, transparent and ethical production chain, it wants to help raise awareness of water resources and their use in fashion among the industry and end consumers.
“We conducted this project in Brazil and measured the water consumption over the entire lifecycle of a pair of jeans. The data was accurate and provided exact figures that allowed us to define new goals for our production chain,” explained Deborah Turner, marketing manager of Vicunha Europe, in the press release.
The result was an astonishing water footprint of 5,196 liters of water that are used in the lifecycle of a pair of jeans. The project also analysed the type of water used and divided it into three indicators: The “Green Footprint” - the rainwater volume contained in plants and soil in agricultural processes throughout the production chain, the “Blue Footprint”- the water volume sourced from freshwater, surface or groundwater sources that was not returned to the reservoir from which it is drawn, and the “Grey Footprint” - the amount of freshwater that nature needs to dilute the wastewater returned to the environment after the processes.
Every link in the chain was broken down step by step to measure the amount of water required in each one: 4,247 litres for planting, 127 litres for weaving (5 litres of which accounted for the production of the fabric), 362 litres during the washing and manufacturing stage and 460 litres in the household washes by the end consumer. Excluded from the evaluation were values for the recirculation/recovery of water used in daily laundry, which may vary depending on the wastewater treatment in different regions.
“The most positive aspect for Vicunha is the fact that we use Brazilian cotton and 92 percent of the water consumed during the cultivation process comes from rainwater. No other country even comes close and this result gives us a big boost in the ranking,” explained Turner.
The green water calculation was one of the most important and referred mainly to the agricultural processes. During the planting process, for example, it was found that the green footprint makes up 50 percent of the water consumption. As 92 percent of the water used in the Brazilian cotton harvest is rainwater, this consumption does not have any environmental impact.
„[The] Vicunha [Water Footprint] operates in north-eastern Brazil, a region with an extreme water shortage. The company has been committed to the responsible use of water resources for a long time now. With this project, we have created a unique tool. By analysing the results, we have further defined and developed our goals to increase water efficiency,” summed up Marcel Imaizumi, production director at Vicunha Textil.
Illustrations: Vicunha Water Footrpint / Vicunha