Product Sustainability Great product designed with sustainability in mind
We aim to design great products with sustainability in mind and collaborate across our business to develop strategies to improve the sustainability performance of our brands and products.
We are committed to pursuing technology and product innovation, allowing us to continually deliver great products that look good, delight our customers wear after wear and reduce our impact on people and the planet. Our brands approach sustainability throughout the produce life cycle, examining the materials they source, the products they design and the suppliers they work with. Each brand uses its unique brand voice to communicate directly with customers on the importance and impact of producing responsibly.
We educate our brand teams about how to design using more sustainable fibers, fabrics and manufacturing techniques that save water—and how to procure more responsible materials.
Integrating Sustainability into Our Brand Decisions
In addition to our work within our company, we continue to leverage our relationships with peers, partners and stakeholder groups, such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Textile Exchange, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's Make Fashion Circular initiative. Our partners each bring something unique to the table in terms of access, expertise, common framework or principles, funding and more. With these partnerships, we’re able to scale up work through our global supply chain and support our brands in setting their own sustainability goals.
One of the most effective ways we’ve found to design and create more sustainable products is to build awareness and education around sustainability, which improves the impacts of our products on people and the planet.
We have developed a number of systems and tools to educate our brand designers, merchants, product development and sourcing teams about how to design using more sustainable fibers, fabrics and manufacturing techniques that save water — and how to procure more responsible materials. For example, our Sustainability and corporate Learning and Development teams collaborated to deliver and scale several tools, including a training curriculum and guidance on sustainable fibers, sustainable wet processing, recycled materials and sustainability marketing claims.
We also worked with Textile Exchange, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and Anthesis to create a Preferred Fibers Toolkit so that designers and developers are better able to select the best fibers based on sustainability factors such as water, chemicals, energy and emissions, land use and biodiversity, social conditions, animal welfare, potential for circularity and improved conditions for women. The toolkit also allows product design teams to evaluate fibers based on commercial factors such as quality, cost, availability and traceability.
Further, we have incorporated sustainability workshops and educational trainings into our companywide learning and development program, and we created a monthly newsletter on product sustainability that we use to proactively engage product development employees.
We have continued to communicate our product sustainability efforts to customers through store displays, product descriptions, product labeling, social media and other channels. We also engage in educational campaigns and media around events, such as World Water Day, and through our strategy to source more sustainable cotton, including through BCI.
In a campaign that launched on Earth Day 2019, we partnered with other apparel brands, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative, and the city of New York to tackle clothing waste. Through the #WearNext campaign, Athleta, Banana Republic and Gap stores in New York City host recycling bins for customers to drop off unwanted clothing for recycling or repurposing. The New York City Department of Sanitation has published an online guide to these locations.
For every brand within Gap Inc., sustainability is considered a business priority. Beginning with Athleta and Gap testing and scaling innovations from recycled fibers to water-saving denim washes, we learned a lot from our first brand-level goals in 2017. By 2018, all of our brands had established executive sustainability steering committees, defined their own priorities and goals, and led sustainability strategy workshops with cross-functional teams. This empowers each brand to build a strategy that is true to its identity while also pursuing meaningful environmental and social impact.
In honor of Earth Day 2019, our Banana Republic and Old Navy brands established their sustainability-focused goals, incorporating sustainable materials and water savings into design, raw materials sourcing, and manufacturing and processing. Hill City , our newest men’s performance and lifestyle brand, launched in 2018 as a B Corp. The brand is being built from the ground up with a commitment to sustainability.
Athleta has a strong commitment to environmentally conscious products and sustainable practices. The brand believes in protecting the Earth as a natural playground, positively contributing to the direction of the apparel industry, offering customers responsible options and driving demand for sustainable goods, and supporting the potential of women and girls.
In 2017, Athleta demonstrated its growing commitment to sustainability by announcing new goals:
- Protect resources: By 2020, 80 percent of Athleta materials will be made with sustainable fibers. The brand has been working to increase its use of recycled synthetics, organic cotton, and more efficient fabric dyeing and finishing techniques. Life-cycle assessments show that these materials conserve water resources, use less energy, emit less greenhouse gases and use less hazardous chemicals than their conventional counterparts.
- Conserve water: By 2020, 25 percent of Athleta’s line will be made using manufacturing techniques that save water. The brand is investigating new technologies and expanding programs that use less water.
- Divert waste: By 2020, 80 percent of Athleta’s store waste will be diverted from landfill.
- Empower women: By 2020, Athleta will impact 10,000 women and their communities through programs like P.A.C.E. and Fair Trade. Athleta certified the first of its facilities as Fair Trade in 2016 and debuted its first Fair Trade products in 2017.
In 2018, Athleta certified as a B Corp, joining responsible brands worldwide in revising its corporate charter to include social and environmental commitments. B Corps, awarded by the nonprofit B Lab, meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. With this accreditation, Gap Inc. has become one of the largest publicly traded retail companies with a B Corp certified subsidiary apparel brand. We plan to learn from Athleta as a case study for Gap Inc., providing a benchmark and roadmap of potential opportunities for greater social and environmental impact across the enterprise.
Gap brand is dedicated to improving its sustainability performance and has advanced progress through its commitment to sustainable cotton, as well as through its innovative Washwell water-saving program and its consumer-facing Gap for Good platform for sustainable fashion.
In 2017, Gap brand established the ambitious goal to get 100 percent of its cotton from more sustainable sources by 2021, including BCI, organic, recycled and American-grown cotton. Gap brand also has set a 2021 goal to make 75 percent of qualifying products (including denim jeans, jackets and shorts) using Washwell, a denim wash program Gap brand pioneered in 2016 that that conserves water in the laundry stage of production. In 2018, we expanded Washwell so that the program is now used across our brands. In 2018, 19 vendors participated in Washwell, up from 16 vendors in 2017. We saved 98.9 million liters of water through Washwell in 2018, up from 76.6 million liters in 2017.
In addition to sustainable cotton and water-savings investments, our Gap brand has enhanced its consumer communications on sustainability. In 2017, Gap brand launched its Gap for Good platform, which includes online information about the brand’s commitment to sustainable cotton, water initiatives such as the Washwell process and our Water Quality Program, and stories about women’s empowerment from P.A.C.E. Gap also trained store employees to speak about the core programs behind Gap for Good, and the brand communicates to customers through store displays, product descriptions, social media and other publications, as well as direct product labeling.
Banana Republic is continuing to integrate sustainability into design and manufacturing decisions to reduce the environmental impacts of each garment. The brand has also established sustainability goals and key metrics:
- Make 50 percent of products using water-saving techniques and cleaner chemistry practices in the supply chain by 2025
- Make more eco-friendly denim by 2023
- Source 100 percent of cotton from more sustainable sources by 2023
- Make 50 percent of products with sustainable fibers by 2023
Old Navy’s targets are focused in two areas of critical importance to the brand and Gap Inc. Old Navy will help scale and drive impactful improvement in water-savings efforts and sustainable cotton sourcing, while helping to educate the brand’s customers on the importance of more sustainable apparel production.
- Source 100 percent of cotton from more sustainable sources by 2022
- Make 100 percent of denim products using water-saving techniques by 2022