Continuing our dedication to water stewardship

The amount of water required to produce apparel and footwear makes it a thirsty industry. On average, it takes more than 710 gallons of water to produce one t-shirt, from the cotton field to the retail store. Understandably, we have a duty to ensure that we not only use water responsibly across our supply chain, but also return clean water back into the communities that depend on it.

Water is vital to our business. Our approach to managing it has been informed by a comprehensive risk assessment in partnership with World Resource Institute (WRI) and guided by extensive stakeholder engagement to identify where we have the highest risk and the greatest impact.

Our new Sustainability & Responsibility Strategy, Made for Change, was developed in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and focuses on how our raw materials are cultivated, how we use and discharge water within our internal manufacturing and supplier factories, and where our collective actions can make the greatest difference.

Take a look at some of our interventions.

Our Impacts & Efforts

Our water strategy extends across our supply chain and centers on the areas where we have the greatest risk and opportunity for positive impact: Raw materials; Third-party factories and their communities; and VF's owned manufacturing. Here’s a look at the key focus areas of our strategy:

The most significant impact to water use and quality lies in our agricultural supply chain, specifically in the cultivation of cotton and the production of leather. However, these are areas of our supply chain where we have limited direct control, so we are working to leverage partnerships with academia, government agencies and NGOs that have localized knowledge and on-the-ground resources to identify areas for improvement.


Although relatively drought tolerant, cotton is a water intensive crop to grow and process. We procure cotton from regions around the world – from some of the largest industrial farms in the U.S. to small, one acre farms in India and Pakistan. We take a multi-dimensional approach and use our scale to promote more sustainable methods of cotton cultivation. By setting goals for BCI and other third-party certifications, promoting incremental changes in growing practices, such as enhancing soil quality and water management in the U.S. and Australia, and through funding local initiatives for farmers, we use our scale to support ongoing industry change. Our Wrangler® brand is leading the way, with one example of its work being a partnership with The Nature Conservancy to lead a soil health advisory group to identify best practices and extend them across the industry.


Leather production – from raising cattle to tanning hides – is a water-intensive process. At the tannery level, the Timberland® brand has a goal of sourcing 100 percent of its leather from Leather Working Group (LWG) Gold or Silver-rated tanneries by 2020, which requires that tanneries adhere to strong requirements on water use and wastewater treatment. The Timberland® brand is well on its way, sourcing 94 percent of its leather volume from LWG Gold or Silver-rated tanneries today. We have expanded this goal to all VF brands with a target date of 2021. We engage in ongoing dialogue about the positive and negative impacts of cattle ranching with various industry working groups and NGOs with an aim to understand how and where we can use our influence to help move the industry forward on more sustainable practices.

Recycled Materials

Recycled materials inherently use fewer resources than virgin materials, including water. Water use decreases in direct proportion to the increased use of recycled cotton and synthetics. For example, recycled nylon fabric uses half the amount of water used to produce virgin nylon. As we work to lower the impact of our key materials, recycled materials offer a tangible way to reduce our water footprint. We have set a goal for 50 percent of our polyester and nylon materials to be recycled by 2025. 

Our contract supplier factories include mills and dye houses where our fabrics are made and sewn together. These facilities are an integral part of the surrounding communities where our workers live.

Fabric Mills and Dye Houses

Our supplier fabric mills and dye houses are the second highest users of water in our value chain, and they present some of the most significant challenges related to water quality after agriculture. Because dyeing can negatively affect water quality if dyes and chemicals are mismanaged and wastewater is improperly discharged back into waterways, we have focused much of our efforts here. We hold our manufacturing partners to stringent Global Wastewater Discharge Standards, developed in line with Business for Social Responsibility’s (BSR) Wastewater Discharge Standards, to make sure the water used in production is properly treated before returning it to the surrounding ecosystem and community.

To support our suppliers in identifying and eliminating unwanted chemistries from entering our manufacturing process, our CHEM-IQSM chemical management program helps suppliers make better choices regarding the use of chemicals in their own facilities.  By preventing harmful chemicals from even entering the facility, the risk of contaminating the waterways surrounding our factories is reduced.

Cut and sew and finishing

For our cut and sew supplier factories, where fabric is crafted into finished products, we focus on reducing the water used in the laundering and finishing processes. Also, we work to introduce technologies that help return the water back to source in a clean form. We hold these manufacturing partners to our Global Wastewater Discharge Standards.

Our factories' local communities

For many of the communities where our supplier factories operate, access to clean water and sanitation is challenged outside the factory walls. Our Worker Community Program focuses on water and hygiene issues faced by many of our supplier communities. This includes identifying local needs and working with communities and local partners to expand awareness and adoption of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs.

VF is unique in the apparel and footwear industry as we produce roughly 25 percent of our products in our owned manufacturing facilities. Although this represents a small piece of our water footprint, we see our owned manufacturing as an opportunity to test new water conservation techniques and incorporate best practices into our extended supply chain to influence wider adoption of these technologies, from high-efficiency washers to reverse osmosis recycling.

What's Next

Using a global Water Risk Map overlaid by our supplier factory footprint, we are assessing where our collective actions can have the greatest impact. Working with local NGOs and the CEO Water Mandate’s Apparel Sector Initiative, we are continually exploring new collaborations.

Key Performance Data


Water reduction goal by the Wrangler® brand across its denim supply chain by 2020


Liters of water saved since 2007 by the Wrangler® brand


Amount of water being recycled by VF’s Torreon, Mexico, manufacturing facility