MIND THE GAP
Since the biennial report was first published in 2003, Gap’s reputation hasn’t been untarnished. A fire at one of its Bangladesh factories, for one, killed 29 workers and injured another 100. In April, 2010, Gap inspectors uncovered forced overtime and overtime payment violations at Ocean Sky’s manufacturing facility in El Salvador, a matter the brand says has been since resolved. And in 2007, Gap found itself in the throes of a child-labor scandal after at least one of its Indian vendors subcontracted a portion of its orders to sweatshop workers as young as eight.
The 99 percent of suppliers that Gap actively monitors must meet its Code of Vendor Conduct or risk termination.
Like many apparel labels and retailers, Gap does not own its own manufacturing facilities, which factors heavily with what falls within and without its sphere of influence. “Poor factory working conditions are unacceptable, yet the complex reality behind them defies easy solutions,” it notes in the report. “In most cases, long-term solutions call for collaboration. We partner with stakeholders such as labor rights groups, trade unions, factory owners and management, governments, non-governmental organizations and other companies to make progress.”
It may sound like a case of passing the buck, but the company does acknowledge the matters it does have clout with. The 99 percent of suppliers that Gap actively monitors must meet its Code of Vendor Conduct, last updated in 2008, or risk termination if they lack the intent or ability to resolve significant or persistent issues.
“Gap Inc. takes seriously the importance of being a responsible company,” Glenn Murphy, the company’s chairman and CEO, says in a statement. “For nearly 20 years, we’ve worked to address some of the major challenges facing our industry and to operate our business in line with our value to do what’s right. While we’re not perfect, we’re proud of the progress made.”
The jury, as they say, is still out.