Arvind Ltd, previously known as Arvind Mills Ltd, a 150-year-old apparel manufacturing company and one of India’s largest denim producer, plans to reduce its water footprint to make jeans from denim fabric by over 95%.
“On an average it takes about 70 litres of water to make a pair of jeans from the denim fabric and we can now make a pair with just one glass of water,” said Aamir Akhtar, chief executive officer, lifestyle fabrics – denim, Arvind Ltd, in an interview with Mint.
According to Akhtar, the global benchmark for water consumption is 70 litres for making a pair of jeans from denim fabric for the top four denim manufacturers—Vicunha Textile, Brazil; ISKO Turkey; Tavex Corp., Spain and Arvind.
The highly polluting nature of the wardrobe stable has been under the spotlight with documentaries like River Blue released in 2016, which pointed out that chemical waste from the manufacturing of indigo blue jeans has turned the rivers to an unnatural shade of blue in countries like China and India.
Moreover the water footprint of a pair of jeans weighing one kilogram is even higher when you look at its journey from cultivating cotton to fibre to product at 11,000 litres, according to a 2009 study by Arjen Y. Hoekstra, professor in Water Management, University of Twente, the Netherlands, and scientific director, Water Footprint Network.
Given the growing concerns around sustainability, Arvind has been working on addressing its environmental impact for the last few years. A year ago, it had moved to zero discharge of hazardous chemicals from its units. For reducing its water footprint, the company has worked with technology providers in the US and imported machines from Europe that now allow it to replace the water used in washing of denim to manufacturing instead with machines to give the same washed look. Akhtar did not disclose the names of the companies due to a non-disclosure agreement or the investments.
“Such technologies are initially expensive as we are setting it up,” said Akhtar. However as there is a huge movement globally towards sustainability it will be cost neutral once its rolled out, he said, without specifying any time frame.
Arvind denims is a supplier to brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klien, Gap, Levi’s, VF Corp brands Lee and Wrangler, H&M and Hugo boss. It also has its own in-house brands like Flying Machine. The company produces over 100 million metres of fabrics and six million pairs of jeans, according to the company’s website.
Denim constitutes approximately 30% of Arvind’s fabric and garment business, said Akhtar, adding that currently about 6-7% of denims fabric is converted into jeans. The company is targeting 40-50% of denim fabric to get vertically converted into jeans over the next 3-4 years, said Akhtar. The new technology will also be on offer as a solution to its clients to make sustainable jeans in India, he said.
Brands like Levi’s, Polo Jeans, Hilfiger Denim and Abercrombie & Fitch and H&M have tied up with Spanish company Jeanologia, which emphasizes on reducing water and chemical consumption in manufacturing of denims. About 35% of the 5 billion jeans produced each year in the world are made with Jeanologia technologies. The company believes that by 2025 all the jeans in the world could be manufactured 100% water-free.
The global jeans market is valued at $92.9 billion and is expected to grow by 4.2% for men and 3.7% for women, according to Euromonitor.
Even in India, it is one of the fastest growing segments. Jeans is the most preferred outfit to work, at least in the non-government sectors, in India, according to a March 2017 study conducted by Westside, a retail chain. Close to 650-700 million pairs of jeans are sold annually in India, Akhtar had told Mint in an interview in April 2017.
Interestingly, the usage of jeans is higher outside of the top five metros in tier II and tier III towns like Guhawati, Ranchi and Jharkhand. Hazaribagh, a small town with a population of less than 2 lakh people, has the highest sales density in the country, according to Pepe Jeans India’s managing director Kavindra Mishra.