H&M, Walmart Aim to Clean Up Chinese Operations

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Swedish clothing giant H&M came under fire earlier this year for selling fake organic cotton from India. Ever since, the company has been working to burnish its reputation. First it launched a sustainable textile collection. Now it is a partner in the NRDC's Clean by Design project, which asks companies to reduce water, energy, and chemical use, and improve manufacturing efficiency with textile suppliers. Walmart also joined the project this week with a commitment to track water and energy use in its Chinese textile mills.

As part of their commitments, H&M and Walmart will launch pilot sustainability efforts at major textile mills before launching widespread supply chain policies. The companies will follow the NRDC's 10 best practices to reduce pollution and save money--a list that includes reuse of cooling water, leak detection and preventative maintenance, recovering heat from smokestacks, and maintaining steam traps.

These sound like small steps, but the NRDC has proof that they work. An NRDC showcase mill, Redbud Textile Company in Changshu, China, adopted just three of the best practices at a cost of $72,000. The result: Redbud cut water use by 23% and slashed coal consumption by 11% for annual savings of almost $840,000.

Walmart and H&M aren't the only companies that have signed onto the NRDC's cash-saving and image-enhancing initiative. Gap, Levi, and Nike are just a few of the other corporate giants that are working with the NRDC. After all, efficiency and sustainability are both good for the bottom line.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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