Chemicals Management

Person dropping liquid into a beaker

The global apparel industry accounts for high amounts of manufacturing chemicals use, and the discharge of these chemicals can threaten local water sources and affect people living in surrounding communities.

In 2023, Gap Inc. met its goal to not source any fabrics intentionally treated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Throughout the year, more than 99% of shipped items with water- or stain-repellent qualities were made without PFAS treatments. 

Our Approach

Our chemical restrictions, including our Restricted Substances List (RSL), Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL), and PFC Policy, are informed by global regulations, hazard- and risk-based considerations, and industry guidelines including the AFIRM Group RSL, ZDHC MRSL, and ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines. We communicate our requirements to our suppliers via our Code of Vendor Conduct (COVC) and Mill Minimum Expectations.

We aim to eliminate the discharge of hazardous chemicals within our supply chain, and we are working to phase out chemicals of particular concern, including by eliminating PFCs from our supply chain. . To empower our brands to make informed decisions and support supplier compliance, we have created an internal Dyeing, Finishing and Wet Processing toolkit. To facilitate compliance with our PFC Policy, we maintain an internal list of acceptable non-PFC-based finishes and materials for water repellent and weather-resistant performance, which we share with our suppliers.

Our approach to chemicals management includes three key components:  

  1. Industry partnerships and industry-aligned standards: We partner with industry groups—including the Apparel Impact Institute (Aii), the Apparel and Footwear International RSL Management (AFIRM) Group, and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC)—to implement a consistent set of tools and processes to support best practices, monitor supplier performance, and encourage the use of safer chemicals.  
  2. Supplier engagement: We expect our priority suppliers to complete the Higg Index Facility Environmental Module (FEM), which, among other aspects of environmental management, evaluates chemicals management practices. We have also integrated chemicals management and wastewater quality requirements into our supply chain programs including our Water Quality Program and our Mill Sustainability Program. We require suppliers to take appropriate corrective actions to address noncompliance.  
  3. Compliance and monitoring: Through third-party testing of products, product components, and wastewater effluent, as well as the use of industry data platforms, we monitor the performance of our supply chain and verify compliance with global chemical regulations and Gap Inc. chemical restrictions. Performance in our chemistry programs informs facility evaluation.

Chemicals are an essential and unavoidable component of manufacturing and are used throughout the supply chain. We also recognize that chemical discharge can impact water and air quality and the health of ecosystems and people. It is difficult to obtain robust information on chemicals used across the supply chain and identifying and using better chemicals requires coordination across Research and Development, Quality, Sourcing, and external stakeholders, sometimes leading to other trade-offs. Even when robust manufacturing controls are in place, finished product can still contain low levels of unintentional chemicals resulting from environmental contamination, use of recycled materials, or other sources.