Sustainability Risks & Opportunities
Mapping Our Value 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 integrating sustainability more deeply into our business to create greater impact across our value chain.
Design and Development
Because 80 percent of a product’s environmental impacts are determined at the concept phase, our approach begins with the choices we make in design and sourcing. Our designers’ creative vision can ultimately affect 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 our clothes – which affects our ability to improve working conditions inside factories as well as our environmental footprint.
By integrating sustainability into the design stage, and by giving our sourcing teams the information and tools they need to incorporate sustainability into their decisions, we are able to make more sustainable choices, even at this early point in the process of making our clothes.
We’re taking steps to ensure we’re sourcing more sustainable synthetic fibers.
Raw Materials and Processing
We use many types of fibers in our products, from natural fibers like cotton and linen, to animal-based materials such as wool and leather, to synthetic fibers like polyester and spandex, to pulp-based materials such as rayon and modal. We work to minimize the social and environmental impacts unique to each fiber.
We place a special focus on cotton, given its importance to many of our products. Farming and processing cotton typically involve large quantities of water, as well as chemicals, and often take place in regions with water and climate risks. In addition, cotton provides a livelihood for many people, including migrant laborers, and there is a need to protect their health and ensure that they work in safe, fair conditions. We have goals to source more sustainable cotton, including recycled, American-grown and Better Cotton from the Better Cotton Initiative.
We are also looking at ways to reduce the impacts of synthetic materials, which are often derived from nonrenewable, petroleum-based sources and may never biodegrade. We’re taking steps to ensure we’re sourcing more sustainable synthetic fibers such as recycled polyester.
Fabric Mills and Denim Laundries
Both fabric mills and denim laundries play an essential role in producing our clothes, but they also use large quantities of water, and the chemicals used to dye and finish fabrics pose a risk to local waterways. To address these issues, we have set two water-focused goals: to reduce water use in manufacturing by 1 billion liters by the end of 2017 and to work toward zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020.
We have programs in place both to improve water practices at fabric mills and ensure that washing denim does not contaminate local waterways or harm local communities. Through our Women + Water strategy, we are working to improve women’s access to safe, clean water sources.
We are dedicated to improving working conditions in the factories that make our clothes.
More than a million people—mostly women—work in the factories that create our clothes, and we want to ensure that they work in safe, fair conditions and are treated with dignity and respect.
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. For more than two decades, we have been dedicated to improving working conditions in the factories that make our clothes.
We have thoroughly assessed our program and introduced new approaches, such as a partnership with Verité that focuses on listening to worker voices. We also are expanding our P.A.C.E. program, with a goal to improve the lives of 1 million women and girls in Gap Inc.’s supply chain and other manufacturing and community settings by 2020. In addition to these efforts, we are helping factories assess and reduce their environmental footprint.
Logistics & Distribution
Getting our clothes to one of our stores—or to our customer’s 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.
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 our U.S. hourly employees and are improving scheduling practices to help attract and retain top talent and enable people to work at their best. We also run our This Way Ahead program at our retail stores to help youth and young adults gain important job skills.
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 our goal to reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions in our owned and operated facilities globally by 50 percent by 2020. We are also working toward an ambitious goal to divert 80 percent of the waste from our U.S. facilities by 2020.
Consumer Use and Product End of Life
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 reuse them—and our brands have run a variety of campaigns to support these efforts.
We proudly communicate our efforts to improve sustainability in our product labeling, catalogs and blog posts. Through our customer engagement, we hope to keep people informed about our work, inspire them to consider water in their daily lives and communicate the urgency of the work we’re doing.
The story of our clothes doesn’t end after they are made and sold.