Sustainability Risks & Opportunities
Mapping Our Supply Chain An overview of our impacts and sustainable practices
A product has a whole life – both before it hits our stores and after it leaves our hands and is worn by our customers. Each stage, from the first sketches to where it ends up after our customers clean their closets, offers opportunities and risks for our business and all those who are touched by our business.
We are a founding member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and took a leadership role in helping suppliers report on their environmental performance.
Product Design & Sourcing
A designer’s creative vision for your next pair of jeans can ultimately end up affecting people and the environment. And as they bring this vision to life by placing orders with independent suppliers, our production and sourcing teams have significant influence over who makes your clothes – which affects our ability to improve working conditions inside factories as well as our environmental footprint. Through collaboration between our sourcing and sustainability teams, we can make more sustainable choices, even at this early point in the process of making our clothes.
Check your tags – most of our products include some cotton, and its production affects both the environment and people. Farming and processing cotton typically involves the use of large quantities of water as well as chemicals, and often takes place in regions facing water and climate risks. In addition, cotton provides a livelihood for many people throughout the world, including migrant laborers, and there is a need to protect their health and ensure that they work in safe, fair conditions. We are developing a strategy to address these issues that connects with and complements our strategy for ensuring that people have access to clean, safe water.
Fabric Mills & Denim Laundries
How does the fabric your clothes are made of get produced? Before you ever wear them, how are your jeans processed and cleaned? Both fabric mills and denim laundries play an essential role in producing your clothes, but they also use large quantities of water, and the chemicals used to dye and finish fabrics pose a risk to local waterways. We have programs in place both to improve water practices at fabric mills and ensure that washing your denim does not contaminate local waterways or harm local communities. In addition, we are working to eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals. And through our Women + Water strategy, we are working to improve women’s access to safe, clean water sources.
Workers at garment factories bring the designs for our clothing to life, and every shirt or pair of jeans that we sell has been touched by many people’s hands. Garment factories are a critical source of jobs for many people in developing countries, but the apparel industry still faces challenges in protecting worker safety and human rights. We have been working for more than two decades to improve working conditions in the factories that make our clothes. Most recently, we have done a thorough assessment of our program and have introduced new approaches, such as a partnership with Verite that focuses on listening to worker voices. We are also helping factories assess and reduce their environmental footprint, including conserving the energy used to light facilities and operate equipment.
Logistics & Distribution
Getting our clothes to one of our stores – or your front door – can involve complicated logistics and contributes to our environmental footprint. We ship products through a combination of sea, air, truck and rail from factories to our distribution centers and then on to stores or directly to customers. We focus on finding the optimal mix of shipping options based on speed, cost and sustainability and have taken steps to conserve energy at our distribution centers, which are the largest facilities we own and operate.
Our stores express who we are – from our style to our commitment to operating in a way that cares for both people and the environment. We have raised the minimum wage for over 60,000 hourly employees and are improving scheduling practices to help attract and retain top talent and enable people to work at their best. We are also looking for new ways to mitigate our stores’ environmental footprint. Through energy-saving LED lighting and other measures, we have improved our energy efficiency, and we are working toward an ambitious goal to divert waste.
The story of our clothes doesn’t end after they are made and sold. How our customers wear, care for and discard their clothes accounts for a share of our products’ total environmental footprint. Increasingly, our customers are becoming aware of such energy-saving measures as washing clothes in cold water – which can reduce energy consumption by up to 90 percent – and using front-load washing machines, which can cut water use by up to half. Many of our customers also seek to reduce waste by donating their clothes or finding ways to re-use them – and our brands have run a variety of campaigns to support these efforts. One example was an intiative by Gap called “Recycle Your Blues,” which encouraged customers to drop off their old jeans at our stores for use as housing insulation in underserved communities. We are continuing to explore ways to encourage these kinds of behaviors, which will help us deepen our relationship with customers and join with them in our efforts to create a healthier environment.