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Teaching women vital job skills while helping the denim industry cure its pollution blues.

Peel the labels off items from Levi’s, Uniqlo and H&M’s casual wear clothing lines, and you’ll find them to be the work of Hong Kong-based apparel manufacturer Crystal Group’s hands. With 20 factories in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Sri Lanka producing 300 million garments a year, Crystal Group is showing that you don’t have to get dirty to look good. Fresh water consumption has been reduced by 30% per garment over the past year, thanks in part to Crystal’s China denim jeans factory, which has pioneered a lasering method that uses no water or chemicals in its processing.

To address the industry’s underbelly of poor labor practices, Crystal Group has also launched female empowerment programs with the aim of advancing the lives of up to 40,000 workers by 2020, an important task in a company where around 70% of the workforce are women. Mental coaches are assigned to all factories, and in-house training courses equip workers with computer literacy and leadership skills. “We want to raise the standard for the whole industry,” said Catherine Chiu, the company’s general manager of corporate quality and sustainability.

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Andrew Lo
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