September 10, 2018
Have you ever wondered how the materials were chosen to make your favorite T-shirt or that perfect pair of performance tights? Did you know that the decisions behind those fabric and material selections can impact the overall social and environmental impact of a garment? In fact, it’s estimated that 80% of a garment’s environmental impact is determined at the product design stage.
Thanks to advances in fabric and fiber innovation, our designers and product development teams are able to choose from a vast array of more sustainable, high quality raw materials – like cotton sourced from the Better Cotton Initiative, which can help reduce water and chemical usage and ensure that cotton farmers are paid fairly for their crops; Lenzing Modal, which is made from the pulp of beech trees; or recycled synthetics, which help keeps plastic and fishing nets out of our oceans. Sometimes these choices can seem overwhelming when you take into consideration impacts like water consumption, land use, animal welfare and energy use, in addition to commercial factors like quality, cost, availability and traceability. Even with the best of intentions, making the responsible decision can be difficult without the right level of information.
To help solve this challenge and streamline the process, we’ve developed a tool that will help our designers and merchants make more informed decisions at the very beginning of a product’s life by scoring each fiber across 10 different indicators.
“We make millions of product decisions in the course of a season. What we’ve done is create a roadmap to create awareness of the impacts of some of these decisions, and to help our product development teams more easily make the best decisions based on the various considerations that we care most about,” said Melissa Fifield, senior director of sustainable innovation for Gap Inc.
The new Gap Inc. Preferred Fibers Scorecard and Toolkit will provide product developers with a more holistic understanding of the sustainability implications of fibers – like cotton, polyester or wool – available for sourcing. This easy-to-use scorecard builds upon data sourced from the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) Material Sustainability Index and was developed in partnership with the Made-By and Textile Exchange.
“MADE-BY were delighted to support Gap Inc. in the creation of this progressive toolkit. It has been insightful to work together with the Textile Exchange and the Gap Inc. team to flesh out some of the really pertinent considerations related to the sourcing of more sustainable fibers that are left out of existing ranking tools available to brands. We hope this will be the start of more productive and knowledgeable conversations between the teams and their merchants about their sustainability impacts, leading to positive changes within the industry,” Holly Browne Head of Sustainable Product & Story at MADE-BY.
“This really was a case of connecting to collaborate and simplify”, said Liesl Truscott, European & Materials Strategy Director at Textile Exchange. “Each of the partners had part of the solution, and when we came together the scorecard just fell into place. It will be great to see the impacts coming through as Gap Inc. implements the tool.”
"The Sustainable Apparel Coalition has developed the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (Higg MSI), our industry's most comprehensive materials assessment tool, to support environmental sustainability at scale. We're excited for organizations like Gap Inc. to leverage the Higg MSI to increase their understanding of the environmental impacts of materials and determine which ones to feature in their portfolios," Julie Brown, Higg Index Product Manager.
These tools will help simplify the process and allow product teams to focus their efforts and drive towards the goals set by our brands, like Gap’s goal to source 100% cotton from more sustainable sources by 2021 and Athleta’s commitment to use sustainable fibers in 80% of the brand’s products by 2020.
The toolkit and scorecard are part of a broader effort to educate our design, merchandise and production teams across the enterprise about how to make products that delight consumers while using more sustainable fibers, fabrics and manufacturing techniques that save precious natural resources—and how to procure more responsible materials that will help us continue our journey towards a more circular future for our business.
Click here to learn more about Gap Inc. is beginning to tackle the challenge of circularity.