Summary: Fabric mills have an impact on the environment. We’re working to improve environmental practices at the mills that make the fabric for our clothes.
Over the past few years, we’ve made significant progress in the areas of workers’ rights and health and safety. Most of our work has focused on the parts of our supply chain in which we have the most control — namely, the cut-and- sew factories with which Gap Inc. contracts for branded apparel.
Our next challenge is to move deeper into the supply chain, to the mills that convert raw materials such as cotton into the fabric used in our clothes. Our aim is to help these mills improve their environmental practices — from developing environmental management systems to using less energy, water and chemicals.
We believe that collaboration is the best route to such change. And through our partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Responsible Sourcing Initiative and BSR’s Apparel, Mills and Sundries working group, we believe we’re making a positive impact.
Beginning in 2009 as part of the NRDC’s Responsible Sourcing Initiative, we worked with key mills in China to develop 10 best practices for improving operational efficiencies in fabric mills, and are currently working to implement them. These best practices are aimed at significantly reducing water, energy and chemical use, and improving manufacturing efficiency. In fact, initial case studies indicate that mills have an opportunity to save money and reduce their impact in a little over one month after incorporating some of these key process improvements.
Learn more at http://www.nrdc.org/international/cleanbydesign/default.asp.
And in 2007, we helped form BSR’s Apparel, Mills and Sundries working group, a forum of 10 leading apparel and retail companies that work in partnership with their suppliers. The group is committed to moving away from top-down, “pass-fail” auditing toward a more collaborative, transparent approach that emphasizes mutual gains. In other words, some of our work involves encouraging mills to see how much they, too, stand to benefit from implementing more socially and environmentally sustainable practices.
The working group has developed a set of guiding principles, tools and processes that suppliers must use to improve their operations. It has also called on participating suppliers to create a strategic plan for developing their own management systems — a fundamental step as suppliers assume responsibility for overseeing and improving their practices.