Sustainably Sourcing Raw Material
Sustainably Sourcing Raw Materials Selecting sustainable fibers
We use many types of fibers in Gap Inc. products: natural fibers include plant-based items such as cotton and linen, and animal-based materials such as wool, leather and cashmere; synthetic fibers include polyester and spandex; and man-made cellulosics include pulp-based materials such as rayon and modal. Each type of fiber has a social and environmental impact, and we are empowering our designers with the knowledge needed to make informed choices within the design process.
Each type of fiber we use has a social and environmental impact, and we empower our designers to make informed choices within the design process.
In 2016, we sourced 11.5 million pounds of Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) cotton—enough to make 7.4 million pairs of jeans.
Cotton is essential to our business. As one of the world’s leading apparel brands, we use a significant amount of the global cotton supply. Cotton cultivation requires large amounts of land, human labor, machinery, pest- and weed control measures, and it is also water-intensive. Cotton is also an important crop for the economy, supporting the livelihoods of 250 million people, many of whom are women.
Given its importance in many of our products, we have announced ambitious goals to source more sustainable cotton. Our commitment to sustainable cotton includes sourcing recycled, organic, American-grown and cotton from the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI).
These options enable us to purchase cotton that is grown in ways that reduce water and pesticide usage, improve soil quality and work to make cotton production better for the workers and farmers involved. For example, BCI provides training to millions of farmers around the world to “produce cotton in a way that cares for the environment, minimizing the negative effects of fertilizers and pesticides, and caring for water, soil health and natural habitats.” BCI farmers also commit to decent work principles— conditions that support workers’ safety and well-being.
This approach works: In a benchmark of BCI farmers in 2013, between 14% and 23% less water was used in cultivation than on farms that did not use BCI principles. In 2016, we sourced 11.5 million pounds of BCI cotton—enough to make 7.4 million pairs of jeans.
We also use synthetic materials in our products, including polyester, spandex and nylon, which provide essential performance properties. However, synthetics are often derived from nonrenewable, petroleum-based sources. They also have fewer end-of-life solutions than natural fibers because they may never biodegrade. To address these challenges, we’re taking steps to ensure we’re sourcing more sustainable synthetic fibers.
As a brand that uses large amounts of synthetics in its active wear, Athleta is taking a leading stance on addressing this issue with its goal of having 80% of materials made with sustainable fibers by 2020. Athleta incorporates recycled polyester and nylon into sourcing, which helps offset the impacts and waste streams of virgin materials and preserves our nonrenewable resources. In 2016, Athleta diverted the equivalent of 7 million plastic water bottles from landfills by sourcing recycled polyester.
In 2016, Athleta diverted the equivalent of 7 million plastic water bottles from landfills by sourcing recycled polyester.
In 2017, we published a policy, in line with Canopy Style, on sustainable procurement of wood-derived fabrics, such as rayon, viscose, modal, lyocell and Tencel, to eliminate the sourcing of woodpulp from ancient and endangered forests. It can be challenging to trace tier 3 suppliers because most fibers are bought and sold as commodities, and we do not have direct financial relationships with the original suppliers. For some of these commodities, we have joined multi-stakeholder partnerships, or certified initiatives such as organic, recycled, Fair Trade and others, that help verify the origin of the fibers or ensure that these fibers are sustainably sourced.