Protecting Our Shared Environment
Protecting Our Shared Environment A priority for people and our business
We view environmental issues as fundamental human rights issues. People can’t live without clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. And those who already face challenges due to poverty or lack of opportunity tend to suffer the most from environmental harms, as their communities are often the most vulnerable and have the fewest resources.
A healthy environment is also critical to our own survival as a company. We depend on natural resources like water to make our products, and we also rely on the people who make our clothes – if they cannot thrive in the communities where they live, neither can we. The environment is shared by all of us, and it is imperative that we act together to protect it.
We view environmental issues as fundamental human rights issues and are exploring new ways to address climate change and help people access clean water.
This urgency is heightened by current environmental threats, including those caused by our industry. We are keenly aware that the environmental impacts of the apparel industry are significant, including pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to leading scientists, the primary cause of climate change is GHG pollution, produced by manufacturing, transportation and energy consumption, among other factors.
Our current environmental approach centers on two main areas: climate change and water. These are the issues where we see significant potential to positively impact people’s lives – and they also hold a great importance to our business. In addition to needing access to natural resources to remain viable in the future, we need to help ensure that the people who make our clothes have access to clean water to sustain their health and well-being. While they are each major focus areas on their own, climate change and water issues are also linked, as scientists have documented that climate change affects water supplies in a number of ways. It has reduced the world’s freshwater, for example, and the warming of the planet’s atmosphere is leading to unpredictable shifts in annual runoff and precipitation, as well as melting glaciers, more intense storms and impacts to agricultural crops and other vegetation.1
We view environmental issues as fundamental human rights issues. People can’t live without clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.
We see significant opportunity to create value for people, communities and our business through our environmental efforts. Because we are all affected by climate change, when we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, these actions ultimately affect everyone touched by our business. The changes we make help to link our customers, employees, business partners and communities in a common goal to protect the world we live in. When we work to keep water supplies safe and clean in the communities where our products are made, we support the health of the people who make our clothes, and in turn they are able to contribute to our health as a company.
Our strategy to address climate change is focused on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, a commitment that we have been working toward for the past several years. In 2010, we set a goal to reduce our absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from our U.S. operations by 20 percent by 2015 from a 2008 baseline. We are pleased that we exceeded this goal ahead of schedule – achieving a 33 percent reduction.
Going forward, we commit to a 50 percent absolute reduction of GHG emissions in our owned and operated facilities globally by the end of 2020. We also commit to divert 80 percent of the waste from landfill of our U.S. facilities by 2020. In addition to conserving resources, decreasing our waste through efforts like recycling also helps offset climate change by reducing the gases produced from the breakdown of material in landfill, as well as the energy used to produce new goods.
We see significant opportunity to create value for people, communities and our business through environmental efforts.
Our new goals represent an important shift from our past approach, which was more cautious and measured. The first GHG goal we set in 2003 called for an 11 percent reduction in energy usage per square foot in the U.S. by 2008. Our next goal raised the bar by looking at absolute GHG emissions, and we set a bigger reduction target of 20 percent. Both of these goals helped to galvanize efforts across Gap Inc., and we delivered good results. But the urgent reality of climate change has caused us to re-think our approach and strive toward more aggressive, science-based targets. We believe that the health of our environment depends on bolder action across all segments of society, from governments to companies to environmental organizations to consumers. If we can achieve our new goals, we’ll make a much more meaningful difference. And if other companies set bigger reduction targets as well, the collective impact could be very tangible.
To achieve these bigger goals, we are working to increase our energy efficiency through such improvements as better lighting in our stores and to reduce our waste going to landfill by collaborating with our landlords and other mail retailers to improve recycling capabilities. We recognize that none of these changes on their own are enough – but the sum of all our efforts played out across the scale of our business operations can create real change. Every improvement in our policies, practices, processes and decision-making helps, and we believe that taken together, these actions have the potential to drive results we haven’t created to date.
In the past few years we have also evolved our approach to water, which builds on our core belief that environmental issues are human rights issues. The basis of our strategy lies in two critical facts – first, that 80 percent of the people who make our clothes are women, and second, that much of the burden of water stress falls on women as well. For these reasons, we frame our approach to water issues under the umbrella of Women + Water. Our strategy is to focus our efforts on supporting women’s well-being and to address the use of water in our supply chain – for example, by working toward the goal of having zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020. Our strategy has a number of components, ranging from partnering with our fabric mills to improve their practices to building awareness and education around safe water handling practices among the women who make our clothes.
While addressing both climate change and water issues poses significant challenges, we also believe we can make a difference for the people touched by our business. The need for people everywhere to work together to create a healthy environment is not up for debate, nor is it optional – for any of us. We feel an urgency to act to protect the resources that we all share and depend on to create a better future.
In addition to needing access to natural resources to remain viable in the future, we need to help ensure that the people who make our clothes have access to clean water to sustain their health and well-being.