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60% of Coats total water consumption is used in dyeing, one of the most important parts of the thread manufacturing process. Coats continues to invest in new machines with low liquor ratio, while also modifying processes in existing machines to be more water-efficient. It is also exploring innovative developments in waterless dyeing technology.


Leader's Voice

“I am pleased with the progress that we have continued to make in reducing water use during 2020. We still have a long way to go to reach our 2022 target, but given the disruption caused by the pandemic, especially to our ability to complete projects we had planned for the year and to plant efficiencies, the results show solid progress.

Water is a shared resource between us and surrounding communities and businesses and we are always conscious that our need for water in our processes must not mean that our neighbours are short of water. We have a four-pronged approach to reducing water use; eliminating unnecessary use of water, especially from leaks, reducing the amount of water required in a dyebath, modifying processes to reduce steps requiring water and recycling as much water as we can. Our process engineers are constantly focussed on these objectives. Meanwhile we continue to invest in developing the water-free technologies of the future.”

Michael Schofer
Chief Transformation and Digital Officer

Water Strategy

Water is predominantly used in our dyeing processes. Here it acts as the medium for applying dyes to our yarns or is used for rinsing and washing yarns before and after dyeing. In the form of steam it is also the medium used for heating water used in processing or for applying curing heat in some coating processes.

Water Strategy

Our long-term vision is of processes that are waterless, and our investment in 2018 in Twine, a start-up company developing yarn digital dyeing processes that use no water, was partly aimed at helping to deliver that long-term goal. We now have a Twine machine in our Turkish Innovation Centre and are doing joint development work with Twine on integrating this process into the thread supply chain.

In the meantime, our goal is to continue to reduce our use of water and hence to help safeguard this natural but limited resource. Our goal is to reduce our water usage intensity by 40% by 2022 against our 2018 baseline. This requires a further acceleration in water saving initiatives compared to the 28% saving that we achieved in the six years up to 2018. Up to the end of 2020 we have undertaken detailed water balance studies in all of our plants, including those without dyehouses but which have significant water use. These studies enable us to map the water into each process in the plant and then determine the opportunities for reducing water usage through process changes. Key to this is the comparison of actual consumption against a zero base requirement, which is pretty much what our 2022 target represents. All of our 49 manufacturing sites therefore now have a water management plan in place.

During 2020 the pandemic interrupted some of the projects we had planned in this area, but we continued to make some progress and this will accelerate in 2021. By 2020 our water usage had dropped by 6% against 2018, and we are confident that we will see strong progress on this in 2021.

40% Reduction in water intensity (litres/kilo) by 2022

Reducing water use requires detailed monitoring of actual consumption at all stages of our operations. The bulk of water use is in our dyeing operations, where it is used as the medium for applying dyes to fibres and for pre- and post-dyeing washing stages, where necessary.

We also use water as the principal source of heating (in the form of steam) in processes that require heat. This includes autoclaving yarn to stabilise it, for dyeing and washing, and for the curing of thread coatings. Water is also used for humidification purposes in spinning and twisting operations (in order to improve the behaviour of the fibres during processing).

Finally, water on our sites is also used for domestic purposes. Identifying opportunities for reducing water consumption starts with a water balance that allows us to track the use of water through all the processes on site. This detailed analysis is best done with multiple metering points in order to get exact volumes at all the key stages. Once we have a detailed water balance then we can see where there is excess consumption and which processes are open to modification in order to reduce water use.

Most chosen solutions can be applied across all of our units that have the same processes, but we also look out for unique opportunities on a site. At the same time as we are looking for ways to reduce the water in use, we are also looking for ways to recycle more water so that we can use it multiple times in our processes and hence reduce even further our need to use fresh water.

A vital resource

Without water we cannot, today, make thread. Water is predominantly used in our dyeing processes. It either acts as the medium for applying the dyes to our yarns or is used for rinsing and washing yarns before and after dyeing. In addition to water use in our dyeing process, we use steam in processing or for applying curing heat in some coating processes.

We recognise the importance of water for our business but also the value of water for the communities in which we operate. In some locations where we operate, water is scarce, and so we have a responsibility to reduce our own consumption and return what we do not need to the environment after suitable treatment. In some cases, this includes recycling the water we extract and reusing it in our manufacturing processes.

Taking a risk-based approach

To identify those water stressed locations, in 2020 we have undertaken an updated water stress analysis using the Aqueduct methodology, expanding our earlier studies to include sites that don’t have dyehouses so use less water. Overall, our review indicates that 33% of our water demand is in high or extremely high water stress areas (water stress measures the demand versus the availability in an area). This analysis reinforces the need to ensure that we continue our current strategy of reducing the water we use, recycling as much as we can and returning it to the environment in a state where it can be used by others. With this approach we can help to destress water in these locations. At the moment around 70% of our water recycling is in locations with a medium to extremely high water stress, and decisions on future recycling projects will be informed by stress levels.

The Aqueduct methodology also assesses water depletion which can become an issue as that will reduce availability (and hence increase the stress). The analysis indicates that only 1% of our demand is in areas of high depletion.

A small number of our units rely on ground water supply, and we have also assessed the risk of water table decline for these units. One unit, Faridabad in North India, is in an area of high water table decline but this is a unit where we have long been aware of water supply issues and we are already recycling up to 90% of our water in order to minimise our need for fresh water.

We will continue to update our water stress review on a regular basis and reassess the risks if need be.

Reducing our consumption

Our global goal is to reduce our water used per kilogram of thread produced by 40% by 2022 against our 2018 baseline. In 2020, we consumed 5.9 million cubic metres of water, which equates to 78 litres per kilogram of product. This is a 6% reduction compared to 2018 and highlights the ambitious nature of our target. Because of changes in scope in our business (the acquisition of Pharr HP), we have restated our 2018 baseline to include the water use and production from that business. Full historical data is shown in the data table at the back of the report.

By the end of 2020, we have undertaken detailed water balance studies at all of our dyehouses and other major sites, covering virtually all of our water use. We have also continued to delier training sessions with colleagues on how to undertake a water balance analysis and then develop savings plans. These studies are now delivering projects with savings opportunities.

Of the water we used, over 22% was recycled and reused (up from 20% in 2018). Of the remaining amount required 50% was sourced from the local environment and 50% was supplied from municipal sources.

Utilising new technology

We continually seek to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of our manufacturing sites, especially around our dyeing processes. Technologies such as reverse osmosis improve the quality of water we use, giving us alternatives to using water from municipal supply and/ or helping us achieve a high level of water recovery from process effluent. In addition, some of our sites have implemented Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) systems, whereby the remaining effluent is dried to make for easier disposal of the residue.

Our sites at Ambas and Faridabad, in India, have ZLD systems, which has considerably reduced the water sourced externally as 65% and 75% respectively of the water used has been recycled. Similarly, in Sri Lanka, at our Horana site, 73% of water was recycled in 2019 with only 27% going to effluent.

At Coats Vietnam, we have successfully reduced our water consumption by 42% in the last five years, which is equivalent to 310 million litres saved. This was achieved by using a combination of approaches; including a move away from underground or hidden pipes susceptible to undetected leaks; an investment on modern dye machines which utilise lower liquor volume (around 44% reduction compared to a conventional dye machine); the implementation of a dyehouse cooling water recovery process and through the harvesting and recycling of rainwater.

Eliminating the need for water altogether

Our long-term vision is of dyeing processes that are waterless. To help promote the development of such processes, in 2018, we invested $5 million in Twine, a start-up company developing digital yarn dyeing that uses no water. Twine launched their first generation of sampling machines in June 2019, and we now have one unit that is being used for joint development work in our Turkish Innovation Centre.

Digital fabric dyeing has been around for some years and is beginning to supply substantial volumes across the textile supply chain. However the challenges of yarn dyeing are much greater for several reasons. Firstly, the three dimensional nature of yarn (which needs to be dyed on all surfaces), is very different to the large flat surfaces that are the substrate for fabric dyeing. Secondly, the physical scale of a yarn (which typically has a diameter that is well below a millimetre), requires very precise control of the flow of dyes and very accurate application systems.

Finally, getting acceptable productivity, and hence low processing costs, when dyeing single yarns (where it might be necessary to dye 10 or more kilometres of yarn to produce a single kilogramme of yarn requires high running speeds and reliable and automated processes.

Twine have focussed on addressing all these issues, and have made substantial progress. With further joint development work underway we can envisage beginning to deploy this technology into our supply chain in 2022. We expect that as the technology matures it will not only benefit our processing, but will have a significant impact across many other parts of the textile industry. It is also worth noting that, while we are focussed on the water benefits here, digital dyeing will also reduce process energy use significantly and will eliminate the need for many chemicals in the dyeing process.

Reducing water use in existing processes

New dyeing machines are engineered to use as little water as possible. Some new machines can operate with only 4.5 litres required per kilogramme of thread. We call this relationship the liquor ratio, in this case being 1:4.5. Older machines were designed to operate with liquor ratios of between 1:8 and 1:10 (so 10 litres per kilogramme of thread). Since most of our installed machines are of the older design, one of our main areas of focus has been on developing innovative ways to reduce the effective liquor ratio of these machines. We introduced the work done in Bangladesh on this Short Liquor Ratio project in our 2019 Sustainability Report. We have been extending that learning in 2020, both by continuing the innovation work and spreading the new practices into different countries, and will be continuing to extend this practice in 2021.

Water: Managing a precious resource wisely
Indicator Unit 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2018
2019 2019

Total water used

Million cubic metres

8.3 8.3 8.2 7.9 7.7 7.8 7.4 7.6 5.9

Water intensity

Litres/kg produced

127 121 118 112 92 83 90 83 78

% of water recycled


2% 4% 8% 11% 20% 20% 24% 23% 22%

Withdrawal from municipal supply

Million cubic metres

3.4 3.2 3.1 3.1 2.8 2.9 2.7 2.8 2.3

% water from municipal supply


41% 39% 36% 37% 36% 37% 36% 37% 39%

Withdrawal from ground water sources

Million cubic metres

2.2 2.2 2.2 2.0 1.8 1.8 1.6 1.6 1.3

% of water from ground water sources


27% 26% 27% 24% 24% 23% 21% 21% 21%

Withdrawal from natural watercourses, reservoirs and rainwater harvesting

Million cubic metres

2.5 2.5 2.3 2.1 1.6 1.6 1.4 1.4 1.1

% water from natural watercourses and reservoirs and rainwater harvesting


30% 30% 28% 28% 20% 20% 18% 18% 18%

Total water withdrawal

Million cubic metres

8.1 7.9 7.5 7.2 6.2 6.3 5.6 5.8 4.6

No water is withdrawn from other sources not detailed above.

1Where possible 2018 and 2019 are restated to include HP Pharr which was purchased in January 2020. This is to provide a like for like comparison.

For more information on our historical performance download our full data disclosure.