Building Stronger Communities

Gap Foundation youth

Building Stronger Communities Investing in others – and ourselves

What does selling clothes have to do with helping teenagers find their way in life? How can it open up opportunities for women who haven’t had access to education? Or unleash the potential of volunteers who give their time and talent to their communities?

Our founders, Doris and Don Fisher, started asking these kinds of questions when they opened the first Gap store in 1969, and we are still asking them today. We know that by running our business, we can create opportunities for people in communities around the world. More and more, we recognize that our company is only as strong as the communities we’re part of, and we also believe that whenever an opportunity is created for one of us, it unlocks benefits for all of us.

We aim to create opportunities for women, teens and young adults, as well as our own volunteers, so that they can reach toward bigger goals and fulfill their greatest potential.

From the start, the Fishers lived this philosophy, and their lifelong and tireless dedication to the community dates back to long before they started our company. Over the years they set a high bar for the rest of us. Don sat on the board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco from 1963 until his passing in 2009. Doris is not just a business pioneer, as a woman who co-founded one of the world’s largest apparel retailers; she helped pioneer a vision for how companies could make a difference in people’s lives. For Doris, who is a leader in supporting education and the arts, a commitment to the community has always been highly personal. She still sends handwritten thank-you notes to our volunteers and remains an active – and passionate – trustee of the Gap Foundation Board.

The legacy of the Fishers is one of connection, of knowing that a company truly succeeds when it helps support others in succeeding as well. This way of thinking is not about giving back, but investing in a stronger future for all of us. When we provide the women who make our clothes with opportunities to gain new skills, they bring their increased abilities and confidence to their jobs, helping to create better products. When our employees volunteer to prepare teens and young adults for their first jobs, they enhance their own skills by mentoring and leading others. We also create a stronger pipeline of potential talent and customers, as they grow up to become successful adults. Over time, the connections between us become stronger, as each of us can achieve bigger goals together than we could apart.

Youth and community at a glance

We recognize that our company is only as strong as the communities we’re part of, and we also believe that whenever an opportunity is created for one of us, it unlocks benefits for all of us.

We believe that to thrive, businesses and communities need to work together, and we aim to work strategically by focusing on programs that leverage our core strengths. We think we can make the biggest difference by advancing women, teens and young adults, and through supporting volunteers. 

Each of these areas is deeply linked to our history and culture as a company. Women have played an essential role at Gap Inc. from the moment that Doris Fisher helped open our doors. Teens and young adults have been more than important customers of our business; we have given hundreds of thousands of them their first jobs. Volunteering has been so central to who we are – made part of our DNA by our founders – that many of our employees say it is a reason they join and stay at Gap Inc. 

Committing to educate one million women throughout the world

In 2007, we launched Gap Inc. P.A.C.E. (Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement) to provide opportunities for the women who make our clothes to gain the skills and confidence they need to advance at work and in life. More than 30,000 women in 10 countries have participated in the program to date, and in September 2015, we committed to continue to expand beyond factories and into communities to reach one million women throughout the world by 2020. 

Many women say P.A.C.E. has not just taught them tangible skills, but shifted their perception of themselves and their abilities. They describe becoming better at communicating, managing their finances, taking care of their health and planning for the future. Each woman has her own story to tell about the change she has experienced – whether in her own life or that of her family and community. Learn more about Gap Inc. P.A.C.E. and our vision for expanding the program. 

P.A.C.E. classroom

A first job is not just a milestone – for many young people, it can be life-changing.

Giving teens and young adults the chance to prepare for adult life

A first job can be life-changing for many young people. Our store internship program, This Way Ahead, aims to help young people ages 16-to-24 years old from underserved communities land their first job and build brighter futures.

Our nonprofit partners recruit teens and young adults from local communities to participate in TWA and teach them the skills they need to get – and keep – a job. Employee volunteers from our Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy brands lead career panels and workshops on a variety of topics, such as decision-making and conflict resolution, and share their personal work experiences with participants. TWA graduates earn the opportunity to apply for paid internships in our stores, where they learn to navigate a real work environment.

Through the connections it creates, TWA benefits everyone involved, inspiring us to evolve and expand the program. As teens and young adults have learned valuable skills and landed jobs, our business has gained access to a strong pipeline of talent. By mentoring youth participants, our employees develop skills and greater motivation to advance their careers. Our brands plan to hire many more TWA graduates, and we expect 10,000 teens and young adults to participate in the program by 2020.

This evolution fits our broader sustainability strategy, which is comprised of three major stages: creation, integration and impact. Ultimately, what we are working to achieve through this strategy is the opportunity to change more lives – on a bigger scale and in a way that is sustainable for the long term.

“Through This Way Ahead, teens and young adults experience a critical rite of passage and start to view their futures differently. Our employees gain valuable skills while helping to change the course of a young person’s life. It is a win-win for all of us.” 

- Gail Gershon, Executive Director, Community Leadership, Gap Foundation

Gap employees volunteering video

Supporting our volunteers as they help to change the world

We believe that volunteers offer not just their time, but creativity, skills and talent that can’t be quantified and have the power to change the world. In 2015, we estimate that Gap Inc. employees volunteered more than 500,000 hours in their communities. That translates to countless moments – of patiently tutoring a child, or outfitting a woman to prepare her for a job interview and the start of a new life, or managing a critical task inside a nonprofit organization that there were simply no funds to cover. 

Our employee volunteers are passionate about contributing to their communities, and we support their work through the Be What's Possible website. To work more effectively, we encourage them to form long-term relationships with community organizations. Over time, they gain a better understanding of what an organization needs and how they can make a difference. The organization gets to know them too and can help volunteers become even more effective. This deeper connection, we believe, leads to deeper impact.

Our Community Leaders are the heart and soul of bringing this vision to life. They serve as key connectors in our communities, inspiring their teams to volunteer, leading the charge by example, and fueling a movement that rallies all of us to get involved. We have more than 2,000 Community Leaders in seven countries around the world, leading teams throughout Gap Inc. in pursuing volunteer projects that hold unlimited potential to build stronger communities. 

Through our Community Leaders, our brands are not just engaged in these efforts, but play a critical role in driving them. At Banana Republic, for example, our store teams reached 100 percent volunteer participation in 2014, with all of them giving time and talent to the community. Every year at Old Navy, our store volunteers run Camp Old Navy, a job-shadowing event that gives thousands of young people throughout the U.S. the chance to go behind the scenes and experience first-hand what it takes to operate a business.

As a global retailer, we are part of a global community, and we believe that each member of a community thrives only when every other member has that same opportunity. We have seen time and again that when we work to create change in people’s lives, they change us too. Our community efforts have helped us create better products, develop a stronger pipeline of talent, and become more innovative. Most of all, they have connected us to the people who are touched by our business. These connections make us a better company and inspire us to look for ways to make an even greater contribution to the community in the years to come. 

Our employees volunteered over 500,000 hours in 2015.