CEO Letter Every product is part of a bigger story
Anyone who has spent time with me at Gap Inc. knows that I’m obsessed with product. Design. Craftsmanship. Texture and color. The smallest details. All of it matters and adds up to something beautiful, enticing and suggestive of a bigger story.
What that story is, however, can be tough to know at first glance. Was a shirt or jacket sewn by someone who works in safe and fair conditions? Was care taken to mitigate any potential environmental harm caused by the manufacturing process? Were the people whose lives were touched by the creation of a piece of clothing affected in a positive way?
Change is not just possible, but imperative – our futures are tied together, and we can’t afford not to act.
Products that are disconnected from people will leave people feeling, well, disconnected.
I’m convinced that this part of the story matters – and will come to matter even more in the future. Products that are disconnected from people will leave people feeling, well, disconnected. And retail is nothing if it is not about emotion.
Part of what is so intriguing to me about our company is that our story is still evolving, and we have a great opportunity to shape it. Frankly, I’m not satisfied with where the apparel industry, including Gap Inc., is today on a variety of social and environmental issues. Many times, creating change feels frustratingly slow. Yet change is more urgent now than ever, for all of us. We face global challenges that require collective action. People everywhere rely on vital resources like water to live; our company, too, can’t survive without a healthy environment. Likewise, we know that we can only thrive in a world in which all people have the chance to do the same. This sense of connection is what encourages me that change is not just possible, but imperative – our futures are tied together, and we can’t afford not to act.
We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I have personally experienced what we can make happen as one of the world’s largest apparel retailers. Over the past few years, we raised the hourly wage for more than 60,000 Gap Inc. employees, a step we hoped would help individual people while also sparking broader change – and in fact, other retailers followed suit. In September 2015, we announced our commitment to expand our P.A.C.E. program to educate one million women throughout the world by 2020. We started P.A.C.E. to help the women who make our clothes gain the skills and confidence to advance at work and at home, and it is both exciting and humbling to set a goal to reach women on a much greater scale.
At the same time, in some areas our story does not yet align with our aspirations. A case in point is the environment. We have more to do to address critical issues across our business operations. To spur our progress, we have set two ambitious goals that we are announcing with this report: by the end of 2020, we commit to a 50 percent absolute reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in our owned and operated facilities globally from 2015 levels, and to 80 percent waste diversion from landfill for our U.S. facilities.
Part of what is so intriguing to me about our company is that our story is still evolving, and we have a great opportunity to shape it.
We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I have personally experienced what we can make happen as one of the world’s largest apparel retailers.
We also know that while we have made progress when it comes to improving working conditions inside factories, we still face challenges in ensuring the safety and well-being of the people who make our clothes. Over the past few years, we have been reassessing and redesigning our approach to how we can catalyze improvements. Our new partnership with Verité, which focuses on measuring and improving the degree to which garment workers feel valued and engaged at work, is a prime example, and we aim to create other innovative approaches as we move forward.
I fully expect that we will be judged by our actions, but the heart of our story lies in our commitment. We’re not perfect, but what I can say without hesitation is that we are committed to this work. We’re striking up new partnerships, investing in new strategies and testing new ideas. We believe we have a real opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives through our business.
While the fashion industry has its challenges, it is also full of promise. The beauty of a piece of clothing can extend outward to touch people and the world in ways that are far from obvious. This potential is what drew me to Gap Inc. to begin with, and it is what keeps me inspired as we chart our course for the future.
CEO, Gap Inc.