Gap Inc. is an American apparel company headquartered in San Francisco, founded in 1969 by Don and Doris Fischer. Gap Inc. is the umbrella company that market the brands: Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Athleta, and PiperLime.
Today the company’s market cap is valued at 15 billion dollars. Having an over 35-year history with over 130,000 employees, they currently operate in 8 countries and have franchises in 24 countries. Gap has the resources and motivation to invest in a corporate social responsibility program that enhances the external public image as well as for the company for it’s own intersts for the stakeholders.
The main tenant of Gaps Social Responsibility program is the idea that investing in the community, stakeholders, employees, and shareholders leads to collective benefit for everyone. The Gap is an example of a company trying to leverage it’s business and assets to help innovate for social challenges. Every year, along with it’s corporate annual report, Gap Inc. published a separate accompanying report and statement about its CSR program.
Their corporate social responsibility program is developed into three elements. First, the supply chain; which includes, factories, vendors, suppliers and the distribution channels to market. The second element includes environmental impact, and thirdly is community and charitable giving.
LABOR AND CORPORATE GOVERNANCE
The supply chain element of Gap’s CSR program is based on their realization of the varying degrees of influence that they have within the product life cycle. For example, the most influence the Gap has within their supply chain is within their retail stores, then graduating with less influence up the product life cycle to toward the raw material suppliers and farms.
In 1992 the company developed global factory compliance guidelines and a vendor code of conduct. This practice has now become the mainstay and more or less standard within the apparel manufacturing industry. This includes such regulations as the use of independent monitoring, child labor restrictions, safe working conditions, transparent record keeping, and right of association.
The Gap has taken a key step with using independent factory auditing as well a their own internal factory monitors. They have partnered with the International Labor Organization, and The Ethical Trading Initiative. In addition, in order to support the daily living needs of laborers in the most rural and underdeveloped communities they have collaborated with the International Finance Corporation which a sub branch of the World Bank. According to a their annual report highlights, the Gap has 99% of all it’s factories monitored.
Gap’s focus on the environment includes energy conservation, sustainable design, and reduction of waste. At the company’s San Francisco headquarters, employees sort their meal waste by use of composting and recycling bins in the cafeteria.
The company has also taken steps to decrease their environmental impact and reduce dependence of fossil fuels. In 2008 they completed the installation of a solar power system grid in their west coast distribution center. In their other DCs’ across the US, they have installed energy efficient fluorescent lights their distribution centers saving 2 million dollars annually in energy cost. They are currently rolling out a program that includes changing the lighting, paint and fixtures in Old Navy stores to more energy efficient design. Some the recycling programs they are implementing include the reduction of corrugated cardboard use, and aggressive reduction of solid waste in their retail stores.
Again Gap Inc . is collaborating with outside business organizations such as CERES and the National Defense Council, as well seeking industry recognition and the accreditation for Leadership in Energy Environmental Design or LEED.
The design office has started to explore working with sustainable fabric and trims that are commercially viable and cost effective for the business. The design teams have been challenged to using hemp, paper and soy in their product collections while keeping the garments an accessible price point for the consumers. Part of the focus on environment movement also consists of the innovation and use of recycled packaging and recycled denim.
One of the most successful environment program they have had as to date, was the “Recycle Your Blues “ denim drive launched in April 2010. In collaboration with Cotton Inc., and their “From Blue to Green” campaign, the company help market their environmental efforts and awareness to consumers. Customers were encourage to bring in their used and unwanted denim to Gap stores across the US to be recycled, and in return received 30% off their next purchase of denim. Gap Inc. collected over 270,000 denim jeans that year for conversion into the “Ultra Touch Denim Insulation” by Bonded Logic for insulating homes and donating to those communities in need.
Gap Inc. has been one the apparel industry’s front-runners in improving the use of water in the manufacture of denim products. Their goal is the reduction of the total amount of water volume used in denim processing as well and the use re use of the wastewater. Becoming a Clean Water Program member of the BSR group along with other denim apparel companies, Gap Inc. is taking proactive steps to reduce the use and the lowering the limit of heavy metals and chemical in water for a positive sustainable impact on the environment.
Going a step further Gap is working with independent environmental consultants to develop a new denim laundry compliance guideline for their denim mills. The compliance guidelines include the use of less harmful dyes and the use of environmental friendly practices to mitigate the detrimental impact of that the textile and mill processes has on the environmental. Using their business leverage, the Gap has been successfully able to influence 100% of the mills and denim laundries for participation in the Clean Water program within their supply chain.
For many years Gap Inc. has been big donor to many charities and community projects but has not publicly discussed their philanthropy in the press. Instead of building an elaborate internal business function within the organization to seek out just a few community and chartable investment opportunities, the Gap has decided to instead to follow and support its’ employees interests and motivation for volunteerism to help identify charitably causes. In turn, the company has supported those charitable interests by providing leadership, self-development and management workshop for its employees. This has lead to an exhausting list of non-profits, causes, and community investment programs that the Gap Inc. and their employees have been involved with.
The company encourages and facilitates community volunteerism in numerous ways. Grants of $150 dollars are given to not profits for every 15 hours of employees volunteer. Each year they sponsor 50 employees to work on building homes across the world for Habitat for Humanity. The company matches employee’s donations to charitable organizations dollar for dollar. Every year over 2 million dollars of company donations are given away matched by employee donations. During semi annual sales, employees send out company coupons to the public. To encourage the use of the coupon and drive company sales, each employee chooses a charity to which a percentage of the sale proceeds are donated when the coupon is used.
Gap Inc. is a key supporter of CARE’s Factory Health Education Project in Cambodia, which improves access to clinical services for garment factory workers and promotes education, awareness and prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. In 2004, Gap Inc. doubled its contribution to the Cambodia program and newly funded CARE’s Private Sector Coalition Against HIV/AIDS in Lesotho.
The company promotes that fact that by shopping from Gap Inc., consumers are in fact purchasing from a company that helps make the global community a better place for all.
“By finding new ways to deliver great product and shopping experiences in a socially responsible way, we strive to be a company that is respected and trusted by customers, employees, shareholders, and people in the communities where we do business around the world. Critical to this is the dedication of our people — and I want to give special thanks to all our employees who make a difference every day.” Robert Fisher CEO, 2006
The Gap has shown thoughtfulness, forward thinking and enthusiasm for their CSR program which can be viewed as admirable in the apparel industry.
Written by J.Valentine