Monday, April 11, 2011

Gap, inc.

Ah the Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy. Three of my favorite stores to shop at. I love their styling, great sales, and commercials (the Gap holiday commercials are always super fun!).

I haven't been there in a couple of months, since before the 30 for 30 challenge as I wanted to investigate their business practices before I went back.

The Gap brand was founded in 1969 and experienced tremendous growth in a short amount of time. Like many retailers, it turned to factories overseas to meet demand. It was not until 1992 that the company outlined a code of sourcing guidelines to ensure ethical practices. The responsibility for enforcement of these guidelines, however, was up to the suppliers so Gap did not have a direct hand in controlling the factories (like many large companies). In 1996, after finding violations in several factories, Gap decided to make their own compliance team that oversees the application of their guidelines (but the factories still remain independent contractors). Since then, Gap, inc has been identified as the most ethical company by the Ethisphere Institute several times (2007-2009, 2011).

To be honest, as I was researching this I was skeptical. My skepticism grew when I couldn't find one negative piece of information regarding Gap's practices. I mean, come on, this is big business we're talking about here! Surely they have done something wrong at some point!

Then, aha! I found it! Gap, like many retailers (see: Forever21) put pressure on factories to produce at a rapid pace, which in turn caused the factory owners/managers to put pressure on the workers through unethical means (long hours, low pay). Where did I find this information? Why Gap's Social Responsibility report! So wait, they called themselves out? That is unheard of in big business. Adding to Gap's halo is the fact that every time concerns have been raised (such as child labor) they have responded immediately but not by denying or letting legal take over but by being honest and dealing with the situation by sending out their compliance team to resolve the issue.

Bottom line: I'm pleased that I can continue to shop at my favorite retailer, however, as an enlightened consumer (as I endeavor to be) I know that public pressure/demand for ethical practices counts for a lot so I feel that we should applaud Gap, inc but also remain vigilant about any problems as they arise. CEOs will change and with them business practices may as well so keep apprised of the situation folks!



Ethical Corporation

How wonderful is it to be able to shop at a mainstream store and know that the money you are spending is contributing to fair practices! How about you? Do you shop at any one of the Gap, inc stores?

- A

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