Gap’s Code of Vendor Conduct does not commit to living wages but only ‘encourages’ factories to pay wages at this level (Section G).
We asked Gap Inc. whether they ‘have any programmes underway to assess what a living wage is in the countries from which you source and to assess whether suppliers are paid enough for workers to be given a living wage?’ Gap Inc.’s response, in an email dated 4 February 2014, did not provide any substantive evidence that the company is either studying whether wage levels at supplier factories are approaching living wages or introducing programmes where the specific and primary focus is to increase base wages for workers beyond the legal minimum:
‘We remain committed to the principle that wages for a standard working week should meet the basic needs of factory workers and provide them with discretionary income. We have developed a framework that lays the foundation for supporting increased wages in the future. This framework includes our priority to ensure that our suppliers comply with legal wage and benefits laws. It encompasses our commitment to ensuring garment workers’ rights to Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining, which are core parts of Gap Inc.’s Code of Vendor Conduct and Human Rights Policy. In addition, our approach involves addressing systemic issues that affect wages and living standards, including the tendency for relatively few female garment workers to advance to higher-level positions.’
‘Of our factory assessments in 2013 and 2014, 52 and 53 percent were unannounced in 2013 and 2014.’
P.29 of the sustainability report states:
‘During factory visits, our field team interviews workers and managers about recruitment and hiring, labor practices and working conditions for young workers. They check for lawful, unaltered documents to verify workers’ ages, since workers can go to great lengths to obtain counterfeit documents. Our team also monitors whether factories are upholdinglabor laws and standards for legal young workers.’
Gap Inc. also told us in an email dated 14 October 2011 regarding factory workers interviews:
‘The workers are selected by our local team of social responsibility specialists (auditors). We privately interview factory workers, selected with no input from factory management, and they and factory management understand that workers’ interviews are confidential. Interviews can be conducted off-site if workers ask to do so.’
This situation was unchanged when we contacted Gap Inc. again in February 2014.
Gap Inc.’s website provides detailed information on the results of the company’s checks on their supplier factories.
P.18 of Gap Inc.’s Global Sustainability Report 2013 – 2014 states:
‘A confidential COBC hotline, email box and web portal are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to employees and anyone who conducts business with Gap Inc. or is affected by our business. We have investigative teams that process and address complaints received through any channel, including our COBC hotlines. All information is logged and cases are addressed and closed.’
However, while it seems that workers in supplier factories could, in theory, contact Gap Inc. through this hotline to raise issues of concern, we can find no evidence that this hotline is publicised in supplier factories.
Gap Inc’s website describes the company’s Mill Sustainability Programme, which it launched in 2013.
Gap Inc. does not have an ongoing programme to encourage customers to reuse or recycle their old Gap clothing. However, the company’s website describes ‘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’.
Gap Inc.’s website describes how the company is now sourcing a large volume of cotton through the Better Cotton Initiative:
‘We are committed to improving cotton farming practices globally – ultimately, making women’s lives better and reducing water usage – through our membership to the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). Cotton is critical to the products we offer – it’s the fiber we use to make the jeans and tees our customers love. Cotton also supports the livelihoods of 250 million people around the world, the largest proportion of whom are women, and strains natural resources, particularly water. Better Cotton aims to make cotton production better for the people who produce it and the environment in which it’s grown. In the first half of 2016 alone, we sourced 441,000 pounds of Better Cotton – enough to make 250,000 pairs of jeans - and plan to continue to increase sourcing of Better Cotton in the future.’
Gap Inc.’s website describes the company’s work to eliminate the discharge of hazardous chemicals from its supply chain:
‘In addition to working directly with mills, we are also addressing the use of chemicals in the production of our clothes. This use is significant – by leading estimates, on a global basis the apparel industry accounts for 25 percent of manufactured chemical usage.5 These chemicals are used in wet processing of fabric and clothing such as dyeing and washing, thereby posing a risk of water contamination that could affect people living in nearby communities.
Our focus is to keep hazardous chemicals out of the processing of our clothes as much as possible. We believe we can best protect people and communities not by contending with the use of hazardous chemicals, but by avoiding their use altogether. We have set an ambitious goal to work towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals (ZDHC) in our supply chain by 2020, through our partnership in the ZDHC 2020 program, an industry collaboration. In 2014, the group achieved a major milestone with the creation of an industry-wide standard for restricted substances, which bans the use of harmful chemicals, particularly in fabric production. We have communicated this restricted substances list to the vendors, factories and mills that make our clothing and are in the process of outlining its enforcement.’