In 2018, WaterAid and HSBC launched a unique three year programme to encourage a shift towards sustainable fashion through improving the sustainability of global apparel supply chains. Building on the success of the HSBC Water Programme, the Supply Chains Programme will deliver essential water and sanitation services in apparel factories and nearby communities in Bangladesh and India.
In addition to improving living and working conditions for employees, this funding will enable WaterAid to provide vital evidence of the financial value of access to water, sanitation and hygiene in terms of business benefits to encourage other companies to invest in these basics.
Here are two examples of how change is being created through the Supply Chains Programme, from working with communities, to influencing key players in the apparel industry.
India: Bringing clean water to Bharatpuri, an artisan community in Lucknow
The densely populated Bharatpuri slum settlement is located in the heart of the city of Lucknow. A railway track runs through the slum which is home to 700 households (around 4,500 people). Many of the slum’s inhabitants are artisan workers who make Chikan embroidery (traditional Lucknow embroidery), and are employed as daily wage labourers. This means that if they are unable to prepare the piece of embroidery on time, due to illness related to drinking dirty water for example, they don't receive payment.
As many houses within the slum don't have toilets, open defecation still takes place. There was also an absence of a proper water supply system (only one tank of water was in place to serve the community), meant that any disruption causes an acute water shortage. The lack of a proper water system also meant there were often struggles and fights to collect water from the limited supply of one tank, causing tensions within the community.
WaterAid began working in the settlement in November 2018 as part of the HSBC Supply Chains Programme. Working with a local elected representative, a pipe system has been installed to bring clean water to families in Bharatpuri. A small handwashing platform has also been constructed and a waste water drain was restored to avoid water logging. As well as improving access to clean water, working with elected representatives to deliver these services has strengthened their relationship with the community.
Bangladesh: Influencing apparel supply chains
In Bangladesh, advocacy activity is taking place to influence key stakeholders within apparel supply chains. Engaging with these key players will not only improve water, sanitation and hygiene provisions within garment factories involved in projects, it will also influence other factories not involved in the Supply Chains Programme to improve access to these services within the workplace.
WaterAid Bangladesh are working with organisations including the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (trade associations representing the readymade garment industry) and the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association to share experiences, learnings and expectations around water, sanitation and hygiene provision within garment factories.
WaterAid will continue to work closely with both organisations to deliver water, sanitation and hygiene services within the factories and surrounding communities to support long term change, and influence the wider sector to make these services an essential part of their business.